“McKee — booted out of the IRA in 2004…”

The BBC reported yesterday on the sentencing, for four and a half years each, of three men, Paul Braniff, Michael Kearney and Eugene McKee, after they pleaded guilty to a single count of blackmail.

They were part of a gang which had threatened the businessman with releasing a video of a “personal nature” to the press.

The report adds

Judge Lynch revealed that Braniff has almost 200 previous criminal convictions and that while most are for road traffic offences, he has been before the court for witness intimidation, robbery and serious assaults while McKee has an “appalling record”.

He said that McKee had convictions for membership of a proscribed organisation, hijacking and possessing a gun, conspiring to cause an explosion and possessing explosives, firearms and ammunition for which he was jailed for 18 years.

That would appear to be the Eugene McKee referred to as a “POW” in this An Phoblacht report from April 1997, which notes he was receiving “morphine injections” and was “currently on a course of painkillers including Robaxin and Diazepam”.

On his arrest on the blackmail charge in 2007, the Sunday Life reported

Police believe McKee — booted out of the IRA in 2004 after he was caught snorting cocaine — was the mastermind behind the attempt to extort PS50,000 between May 21 and May 30.

But look back to the BBC report, which includes this interesting point of information

The extortion started after the businessman’s car containing the video was stolen in 2001. [added emphasis]

However, most of the offences happened in 2007.

And from an earlier BBC report on the trial

The prosecution barrister said that within weeks of the car being stolen, two videos were delivered to Witness A’s home.

Phone calls then followed from a man demanding £5,000 for the return of the recordings or they would be sent to local schools and churches.

The alleged victim met the man at a fast food outlet in north Belfast and handed over the money.

No videos were ever forthcoming but more demands were made via phone calls, which Witness A ignored.

In May 2007, two men, one of whom was allegedly Mr McKee, went to Witness A’s home and told him that they were “looking for a one-off payment of £50,000”.

The two men said that this payment “would end it once and for all – or it would be in the Sunday papers”.

The barrister said that shortly after the men left, witness A received the first of numerous telephone calls from a man demanding that he hand over money, adding that, according to the Crown case, “the man doing the talking is Eugene McKee”.