New lead in NI murder inquiry

Mon, Oct 22, 2012, 01:00

Police investigating the murder of a pensioner who died after confronting a burglar have revealed they are following a new lead.

Bertie Acheson (72) struggled with the intruder in his Coleraine home in April after being woken by the sound of breaking glass.

Detectives said they now believe his killer came from 64km (40 miles) away, in the town of Antrim.

The Crimestoppers charity has already offered £10,000 (€12,280) for information which leads to the conviction of the culprit.

The officer leading the investigation, Det Chief Insp Ian Harrison, said: “I am not at liberty to disclose the exact nature of the new information which has become available to us but I can say that it is significant.

“It means we are now focusing our attention on the Antrim area because that is where we believe the killer is based.”

Police set up checkpoints in the Antrim area today, with officers talking to motorists and distributing leaflets in an effort to glean information from local people about activity in the town back in April.

Mr Harrison said Mr Acheson’s widow, Sheila, and the rest of his family are still trying to come to terms with his death almost six months later. “The family have told me they have no sense of normality anymore,” he said. “Their lives have been turned upside down. They try to go on as normal but it is very difficult.

“There will be no closure for them until the person responsible has been caught. They wonder if this person has a conscience and, if so, does Bertie’s death ever bother them? Bertie’s life was taken, but so many more lives have been shattered by his murder.”

Mr Acheson and his wife were asleep in bed at their home in Glenmore Gardens on April 30th when they were woken by the sound of breaking glass at about 1.30am.

Mr Acheson got out of bed to see what was happening and went into the kitchen, where he was confronted by a male intruder who demanded money. Police said there was an altercation and a struggle which resulted in Mr Acheson falling to the floor.

The intruder then made his way into the bedroom, where he threatened Mrs Acheson, who is 70 and suffers from arthritis, before taking her red purse and escaping with £375.

Mrs Acheson raised the alarm but, by the time ambulance personnel and police arrived, her husband had died. It is understood he suffered a heart attack.

Police said they have already carried out extensive inquiries into the murder. Detectives have visited 240 houses and taken 200 statements from members of the public. A substantial amount of material has also been downloaded from a total of 80 CCTV systems and is being studied.

Mr Harrison said significant forensic examinations are continuing. “We are making progress and this latest development of new information will provide further assistance,” he added.

“We are grateful to the wider community for the information which they have already provided to us. I would remind people - and I believe there are individuals in the Antrim area who know who was involved in Bertie Acheson’s murder - that there is a £10,000 reward available from the independent charity Crimestoppers for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the man responsible for Bertie’s murder.

“We are asking people to think back to Monday 30th April and the days immediately after that. Do you know anyone who travelled from their home in the Antrim area to Coleraine in the early hours of 30th April? Was there a man you know who was acting in an unusual manner or whose behaviour seemed suspicious?

“If you have any suspicions or concerns, we want to talk to you. We will treat any information in the strictest confidence, but we need the information.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact detectives on 028 7028 0987 or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

PA