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Lurgan man accused of threatening mum over dad’s ashes seven years after his death

The former right hand man of a murdered gangster has appeared in court accused of threatening his mother.

Lisburn Magistrates’ Court heard claims that Hugh Boyce (31) told his mum Joy Boyce to send him his father’s ashes “or there will be consequences”.

Appearing at court on Thursday by videolink from police custody Boyce, from Watsonville in Lurgan, was charged with improper use of a telecommunication network to send a menacing message on September 6, this year.

According to a police officer who gave evidence during a contested bail application, his mother “recognised his voice immediately” when he telephoned her to demand the ashes of his father who died seven years ago.

The phone call, said the officer, had left Boyce’s mother and sister “extremely fearful” given his 85 previous convictions including entries for serious assault, making threats to kill, arson and criminal damage while Boyce’a niece “hasn’t slept for fear since this incident.”

“If somebody made that threat to me I might laugh at them,” said District Judge Rosie Watters, “but when they have a record such as Mr Boyce’s I might take it a bit more seriously….the consequences that Mr Boyce talks about would be very different from consequences that you or I talk about.”

Back in 2019 when Boyce was jailed for two years for his role in a campaign of intimidation and arson attacks directed at police officer’s homes and cars; he was named in court as second in command in Malcolm McKeown’s mid-Ulster gang.

The campaign against police and staff of a Banbridge hotel began in 2015 when McKeown’s gang were refused entry to the hotel’s nightclub but eventually, cops placed covert listening devices in a car of a fellow gang member and recorded Boyce discussing drug deals, plans to burn down a pub in Craigavon, and talk about balaclavas, gloves, climbing over walls and petrol bombs.

As that case progressed through the courts however, there was a fall out in the gang and each time Boyce appeared in court, McKeown sent associates to watch proceedings.

Crime boss McKeown, whose brother Clifford was jailed for life for the murder of Catholic taxi driver Michael McGoldrick, was shot dead in a hail of bullets at a petrol station forecourt in Waringstown in 2019.

Four men are facing charges in relation to the killing.

In court on Thursday, defence solicitor Philip Breen submitted the PPS “have a lot of work to do to get it off the ground” and with no domestic history between Boyce and his family that bail could be granted.

“I suppose I will grant bail,” said District Judge Watters who told Boyce that while she was not ordering him to find an alternative address, “you have to be much more careful about” what he says.

“You have waited seven years to sort out your father’s ashes so just put it to one side for the time being,” she advised Boyce, who told the judge “I’m not involved in a criminal lifestyle any more.”

“If you are back in front of me having done anything I will be absolutely raging,” declared the judge.

Boyce was freed on his own bail of £500 and his case adjourned to 6 October.

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