Murder accused 'helped in gun search'

Published Monday, 03 February 2014
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The jury in the Philip Strickland murder trial has heard how one of the accused voluntarily helped detectives look for the weapon used in the killing.

Murder accused 'helped in gun search'
Philip Strickland, aged 37, who was found shot dead in a car in Comber, Co Down. (© UTV)

The 37-year-old victim was shot in the leg at a yard on the Ballyglighorn Road on the outskirts of Comber before being bundled into the boot of his own car and driven a short distance to the Ballydrain Road, where he was shot in the face.

Two men - 56-year-old farmer Jimmy Seales from Ballykeel Road in Hillsborough and 26-year-old Stephen McCaughey from Shackleton Walk, Newtownards - deny the murder.

Two of Jimmy Seales' sons - Ian and Jason Weir from the Derryboye Road and the Raffery Road, near Killinchy - have already pleaded guilty to murder.

The jury heard that on 26 September 2012 Stephen McCaughey was interviewed voluntarily at Maghaberry prison where he had been on remand for eight months.

During the course of his interview, he was asked by detectives if he knew of the whereabouts of the shotgun, but McCaughey replied: 'No comment'.

Under cross examination, a detective confirmed to McCaughey's defence QC that the reason had given a 'no comment' answer to the question was that before the taped interview had started he said he could help police find the gun.

"He indicated that from the information he had received he believed he could assist in the location of the weapon, isn't that correct?"

The detective replied: "Yes, that's correct."

The defence counsel said that after the interviews were completed, McCaughey was taken from Maghaberry prison on 4 March 2013 to assist police in helping to locate the weapon.

The court heard that McCaughey accompanied police on that date to Raffery Road where a search of the property was carried out.

The detective told the court: "The weapon still has not been recovered."

Earlier, the jury listened to a number of voluntary taped interviews between McCaughey and detectives in Maghaberry prison.

McCaughey told police that he arrived at the yard on the Ballyglighorn Road after receiving a phone call from Jason Weir to meet him there as there was "going to be a scuffle".

He said that as he pulled into the yard in his Peugeot car, a Mercedes car "screamed past him, the wheels skidded and the car went into reverse."

The jury, sitting with trial judge Mr Justice Weir, heard that McCaughey told police Jimmy Seales got out of the Mercedes car and was "carrying a shotgun".

"Jimmy said to me: 'McCaughey, stay out of this. This has got nothing to do with you'. He was in a rage. He had five times the strength of me."

McCaughey said that he then heard a "dull shot" and saw Philip Strickland lying on the ground, with Jason and Ian Weir kneeling over him, punching and kicking him.

"I seen a hell of a lot of blood coming out of that man's leg. It looked as if the blood was running down the yard."

Asked by detectives why he had not them told this from the start, McCaughey replied: "To be honest, I seen what Jimmy did to that man and stuff, he had threatened me.

"I just wasn't thinking straight at all. My head was melting. I thought if they are capable of doing that what are they capable of doing to me."

Jimmy Seales has consistently denied any role in the murder of Philip Strickland.

He maintains that on the evening of the murder, he watched Emmerdale on television and then went to bed.

The trial continues.

© UTV News
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