'I wish they had shot me instead' - Mum

Published Thursday, 17 April 2014
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The mother of murder victim Phillip Strickland has told UTV she wishes his killers had shot her instead, as she remains haunted by his brutal killing in Co Down, two years ago.

'I wish they had shot me instead' - Mum
Elizabeth Dempster talks to UTV Live Tonight about her son's murder. (© UTV)

The last time Elizabeth Dempster saw her son alive was just 15 minutes before his death on 11 January 2012, as he put petrol in a car she had helped him buy a day earlier.

"He walked out the door and I says to him: 'Now look after the wee car, son' and he turned round and his last two words to me were: 'Cheers, ma.' And that was the last time," his mum recalled.

Phillip was later ambushed by four men in a yard off the Ballyglighorn Road in Comber, shot in the leg, bundled into the boot of that same car, driven to the Ballydrain Road and shot in the face.

Attempts were made to burn the car and Phillip's twin brother Andrew, a fireman, arrived at the scene thinking that there had been a crash.

Instead, he found his twin's badly maimed body.

Speaking about the moment she called Andrew to find out what had happened, Elizabeth said: "Just something made me say to him: 'Is my Philip dead?' And he said 'Yes, and he's been shot.'

"He went over to Philip and put his fingers on his neck and he was still warm, but he knew he was dead. And he put his hands down to turn his face round and he said he had no eyes.

"That's the way they left my son."

When he needed me, I was always there for him. But when he really, really needed me - I wasn't there. There was nobody. He died among people that thought life was cheap.

Elizabeth Dempster

Two years on, Elizabeth remains haunted by her son's ordeal and ultimate murder.

Despite having been seriously injured by the first shot, he managed to clamber out of the boot of the car in his bid to escape - a bid that proved futile in the end.

The four men responsible have been jailed for the killing.

Ian Weir, 28 and from Raffery Road in Crossgar, received a four-year sentence. His brother Jason, 27 and from Comber Road in Carryduff, received a nine-and-a-half year term. Both had pleaded guilty.

"The four years ... I heard a noise and I didn't realise that noise was coming from me. I was crying when I heard that four years," Elizabeth said.

"I couldn't believe it. Four years. How do you get from life to four years?"

As well as pleading guilty, Ian Weir had given evidence against one of the other men involved - his father Jimmy Seales.

"He was thinking of himself, he wasn't thinking of my Philip," Elizabeth said.

"He has two wee boys - now he can see them every weekend. I can go to my son's grave and look at a headstone."

Jimmy Seales was jailed for 15 years, while the fourth man - Stephen McCaughey, from Shackleton Walk in Newtownards - received a 10-year term.

Phillip's mother was in court to see them sentenced, noting: "Any other time they stared me out. That particular day, they hadn't even the guts to look anywhere near me."

But for Elizabeth, the loss of her son has reduced her merely existing rather than really living her life.

"To the day I die, I would have rather that they came and shot me," she said.

© UTV News
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4 Comments
Anon in Belfast wrote (152 days ago):
The sentencing in this case is an insult to the family, and will be difficult for them to move on as justice has not clearly not been done. They have been found guilty of murder, let the sentencing show this. The pain & heartache is clear in this interview, thoughts are with the Strickland family x
sad in belfast wrote (152 days ago):
this poor women would break ur heart. i hope she gets the strength to get through this. life should mean life. god bless u n ur family x
CJ in Co Down wrote (153 days ago):
I watched this poor woman on TV last night. The pain she has to bear must be intolerable. I agree that the sentencing seems to be so insulting to families of murder victims. Surely this ought to be reviewed? Take a life, serve a life sentence, that seems fair.
darren in belfast wrote (153 days ago):
Murdered by thugs and cowards, takes a brave man to pull a trigger....always remembered stricky gbnf
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