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A Balloon Saboteur Gets Jail
In November 1940 the Press and Aberdeen Journal reported on a case of sabotage to 16 Balloons in a balloon fabricating factory.
Three detectives concealed themselves in factory, and from observations later detained Leo Anthony McNeeny (18), of 5 Springhill, Waterhead, Oldham, it was stated at a North-west of England police court yesterday. McNeeny, a labourer, was charged under the Defence Regulations with impairing the efficiency of aircraft —a barrage balloon —by slashing it with a knife. He was sent to prison for two months. I was quite surprised at such a light sentence for the offence. I would have expected two years for this but perhaps his young age helped him).
Detective Hallilley said the observations were kept on the night of November 3rd from the canteen. They saw McNeeny several times move away from where he was working for no apparent reason towards other balloons. Witness alleged that McNeeny appeared have something in his right hand and made a swift movement underneath the balloon. The Witness and Detective-Sergeant Noble asked him he had a knife. McNeeny replied, " No." When he was being searched a knife dropped from McNeeny s trousers back pocket. McNeeny, it was alleged, did not reply.
Cross-examined, Hallilley agreed that the same night and ever since McNeeny had denied that the knife belonged to him. Detective-Inspector F. Stainton said sixteen balloons had been damaged since the previous Tuesday. Two further balloons were damaged during the night. Eleven of the balloons managed to reach the testing stage before the damage was discovered.
McNeeny strenuously denied the charge and suggested that the knife must have been planted on him by the two police officers. Mr Sandbach for the defence, submitted that the prosecution's case was weakened by the fact that certain balloons were slashed when McNeeny was not working on them. The damage caused considerable delay with balloon production.
Leo McNeeny never explained why he slashed the balloons but that was just the start of his crime spree.
He embarked on a life of crime and in 1958 made the news again when he was in the Appeal Court appealing against the length of his sentence of three years imprisonment passed on him at London Sessions on March 26 for receiving and larceny. Lord Goddard, the Lord Chief Justice, announced the Court of Criminal Appeal's decision and increased the sentence to five years!
McNeeny had asked the court to reduce the three-year sentence and collapsed in the dock when heard the decision! Lord Goddard said McNeeny was given leave to appeal because McNeeny thought the sentence of three years was excessive. He had pleaded guilty to four offences and asked for twenty-one others to be considered. The offences were about as serious as could be imagined.
He died in 1993.
Peter Garwood August 2020
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