Page last updated at 20:06 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009

Jury ponders 'IRA blackmail' case

Robert McCartney in 1976
Ronald McCartney was convicted of attempted murder in 1976

The jury trying two former IRA prisoners for an alleged blackmail plot against two businessmen have been sent home after failing to reach verdicts.

Ronald McCartney, 55, of Belfast, and Nick Mullen, 60, from west London, are said to have told each man to hand over 150,000 "or face the consequences".

Both men deny two counts of conspiracy to blackmail, as does co-defendant Louis O'Hara, 43, of Loughton, Essex.

The jury is expected to resume its deliberations on Monday.

The four-week trial at London's Southwark Crown Court heard letters sent to the businessmen in early 2008 not only bore the Irish Gaelic for the IRA - Oglaigh na h-Eireann - but were signed with the organisation's nom de guerre "P O'Neill".

McCartney has previously served a sentence for attempting to murder three policeman in the mid-1970s, while Nick Mullen was once jailed for being a "quartermaster" for an IRA active service unit.

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