William Harkin escaped with a suspended prison sentence after he admitted making repeated calls to the PSNI that the IRA had left a bomb under a car in Newtownstewart
The siblings have been the bane of the PSNI over the last two decades with their repeated false claims and reports.
Last week, William Harkin escaped with a suspended prison sentence after he admitted making repeated calls to the PSNI that the IRA had left a bomb under a car in Newtownstewart.
This week, he told the Sunday World: “I just had too much to drink.”
It emerged during his sentencing he had previous convictions for making hoax bomb threats – and we can reveal that refers to Harkin calling in an alert to a bar in 2005.
On that occasion, Maguire’s Public House in the Drumlegagh area of Newtownstewart had to be evacuated – but once again he escaped with a suspended sentence.
Last year we revealed how his 59-year-old sister, Hannah, made three false allegations of rape against one man, leading to his arrest.
The disgraced mum of six was also convicted 20 years ago of providing a false alibi for her killer son.
That came after her son Gerard Patrick Donnell served just five years for smashing to death 48-year-old Omagh man Andrew Bannon in 2003.
Donnell, who was highly intoxicated at the time of the killing, carried out the barbaric act because he thought his mum was involved in some kind of relationship with Mr Bannon.
He was also convicted of GBH with intent on another man and perverting the course of justice in connection with the same incident.
Hannah Harkin was convicted of withholding information after an Omagh barman heard her along with three others – including her killer son – concocting a false alibi.
Last week, Strabane Magistrates Court heard how William Harkin made a series of crank 999 calls, one of which he claimed was due to information received from the FBI.
The 62-year-old, of Drumlegagh Road South, pleaded guilty to a single charge of improper use of a telecommunications device and promised he would not commit the same offences again.
Deputy District Judge Sean O’Hare told him: “It’s clear to me that you have difficulties.”
The court heard that on the first occasion, October 8 last year, that Harkin rang 999 and said there was an IRA bomb under a car in Newtownstewart.
Believed to be a hoax, police were tasked to speak to the defendant who was found to be drunk.
At first Harkin refused to say how or why he knew there to be a bomb under a car, then he started talking about the Omagh bomb.
Later he said he knew of the Newtownstewart bomb because the FBI had told him, but police warned him about the dangers of calling hoax bomb alerts and left it at that.
However, the very next day ‘bomber’ Harkin again rang 999 FOUR further times. In the first three of these calls he claimed to be in the IRA and again claimed there were bombs in Newtownstewart.
Again, when police called, Harkin was found to be in a heavily intoxicated condition and again he was warned about making hoax calls.
He was subsequently arrested and cautioned.
“The defendant comes before the court with a relevant record” Judge O’Hare said. “It has some very serious offending in it.”
The judge noted that instances of previous offending including indecent behaviour and being drunk but noted his offending started back in 1982 and has continued “with some gaps”.
“The difference here is, this was a protracted period of time... you were warned by police,” he said.
“I am concerned that there was something going on in October 2021 and that was making you behave like this... it happened four times after you were told not to.”
He added: “It seems to me that you need to get some help.”
Harkin was then handed two months in prison suspended for two years.
The judge warned Harkin to “keep himself to himself” adding: “If you commit any further offences in the next two years you will be starting at two months’ custody.”
The hoaxer replied: “It won’t happen again”, to which the judge responded: “That’s what you said on October 8 and it happened the day after. It happened again after you were told not to. It’s up to you to control yourself.”
When we called at William Harkin’s house to ask why he kept making hoax calls about bombs. he said on this occasion, “I just had too much to drink”.
Just as he was about to explain what happened in more detail a younger male came out of the house and told us: “We don’t want anything in the paper about that, f**k away off.”
After her convictions for making false rape allegations, his sister Hannah was also convicted last year of making nuisance phone calls to the 999 service.
She claimed she’d been attacked in her home when she hadn’t, she called 999 to complain about a parked car and on another occasion she called 999 again but then refused to answer her door.
But her rape claims were by far the most serious as they led to the arrest of a man who a judge said was left extremely distressed by the false allegation.
A judge in January 2021 described her behaviour as “reprehensible” adding: “The stain that can attract can be very hard to repair and very distressing for him, yet this conduct was repeated, and the man was arrested.”
When confronted by the Sunday World, Harkin blamed her addiction to alcohol for her shocking behaviour.
She had contacted the police on both occasions and claimed the man had lured her to her bedroom and raped her, but the next day had withdrawn the allegations.
The man had been arrested and strenuously denied the claims. She was also ordered by a judge to pay £1,000 compensation to her victim for the distress she had caused him.
It emerged later at Dungannon Crown Court hearing she had made a third rape allegation against the same man which had preceded the first two.
Here she faced the more serious charge of perverting the course of justice and had been due to stand trial when she changed her plea to guilty.
The killing of Andrew Bannon shocked the community around Mullaghmore and Hannah Harkin was forced out of the area, such was the anger felt towards her for her part in the fake alibi.
She was handed a suspended prison sentence after a barman had overheard her, her killer son and three others openly discussing an alibi in a pub.
When she appeared at court, Harkin was asked why she had not notified the police as soon as she became aware of what her son had done to Mr Bannon. She replied she regretted not contacting the police at the time before adding, “it was a stupid thing to do”.
Andrew Bannon, a popular character who was well known throughout Omagh, was brutally beaten by Donnell with a pickaxe handle.
Donnell was originally sentenced to 14 years in 2005 when a murder charge was dropped and he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
But he appealed his sentence and had it reduced to 10 years and with 50 per cent remission he walked after just five years inside.