Visits to witnesses “were expressions of the general unease in the local community”..

The Sinn Féin party member, and husband of a SF councillor, Vincent McAnespie who had been arrested and charged, along with Independent republican candidate Gerry McGeough, with the attempted murder of a part-time UDR member in 1981 has been released on bail of £5000 and two sureties of the same amount after the High Court was told that two witnesses had withdrawn their statements – described as the main plank of the prosecution case by the Crown lawyer. He has also surrendered his passport, must report daily to police and was ordered not to have any contact with witnesses or with the UDR man who survived the PIRA ambush in 1981. But his defence lawyer had some other information to impart

A defence lawyer said the two witnesses had made it clear that their withdrawal was not driven by “fear or intimidation”.

He said visits to them, including one by the parish priest, were expressions of the general unease in the local community at the vintage of the offences and the manner in which McAnespie was arrested.

Updated belowUpdate The Irish News today has a report which has direct quotes from the proceedings in court yesterday [subs req],

There’s some clarification of what the defence lawyer, Des Fahy, said

Des Fahy, defending, said Mr McAnespie denied any involvement in the offences and had no part in approaches to the two witnesses.

“It is my understanding the two witnesses have spoken with their parish preist and solicitor and have made it clear that they were not motivated or driven by fear or intimidation in the withdrawal of the statements,” he said.

Whilst from prosecuting lawyer, David Reid

He said two witness were recently revisited by police and made statements but within two days other people came to see them on four separate occasions and, while no open threat was made, they were left in no doubt that they were to withdraw their statements.

“The threat was implied and the elderly witnesses were left in a very frightened state,” Mr Reid said.

“Later one of them was out shopping and was called a traitor.”