Northern Ireland

Man who threatened to kill children gets probation order

Elmgrove Primary School in Belfast Image copyright Google
Image caption Elmgrove Primary School in Belfast closed after Price made the threat to kill children

A man who threatened to kill children at an east Belfast primary school has been handed a two-year probation order.

Martyn James Price, of St Columbs Wells in Londonderry, admitted threatening to kill more than 16 five-year-olds at Elmgrove Primary School in 2015.

A prosecutor told the judge Price said he wanted to "kill more" than Dunblane massacre killer Thomas Hamilton.

The 35-year-old also pleaded guilty to causing damage to furniture at an apartment and to possessing cannabis.

Downpatrick Crown Court heard that Price made the threat to kill in an email to a customer support adviser at England-based online betting and gaming company in January 2015.

'Top Dunblane killer'

A prosecution lawyer said that Price had been informed that his online account had been suspended pending an investigation over another account he held with a second betting company.

Price, he said, disputed this and claimed his account must have been "hacked".

"About an hour later, Price sent an email in the following terms and I quote: 'It doesn't matter. Forget about it. I am walking into a school on Friday and I am going to kill as many five-year-old kids as I can before ARU (Armed Response Unit) shoots me.

Image caption Downpatrick Crown Court heard that Price made the threat to kill in January 2015

"'I am hoping to top Thomas Hamilton by killing more than he did.'"

The prosecution lawyer told the judge that Thomas Hamilton was a reference to the man who carried out the Dunblane massacre in Scotland.

'Raised the alarm'

The court heard that the defendant had contacted a property letting company the previous day "making a specific threat to the Elmgrove Primary School in east Belfast".

"Police were then able to link the two pieces of information and raised the alarm," the prosecutor said.

The court heard that as a result of the threat, Elmgrove Primary School was closed the next day.

After his arrest, Price was found to be in possession of cannabis.

The court heard the criminal damage of £250 related to a chair, a coffee table, a lamp and a kettle in his rented flat.

'Likely to reoffend'

"Nothing was found that would have suggested that the threat would have been acted upon," the prosecution lawyer added.

A defence lawyer said that while Price's email was "malicious" it was an "empty threat".

The judge said that under the terms of the probation order Price must to abstain from drugs and alcohol and take part in an addiction programme.

If those terms are breached, the judge said, "I will have no hesitation whatsoever in passing the sentence I previously mentioned".

The judge added: "Although you are assessed as a high likelihood of reoffending, I have to have regard to the probation service, who say you are not a danger to the public."

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