Murdered man's mother aware of threats

Published Tuesday, 21 January 2014
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The mother of Co Down murder victim Philip Strickland said she was aware of a UVF threat issued against her son four or five years before his death, a jury has heard.

In a statement read at Belfast Crown Court on behalf of Mrs Elizabeth Dempster, she said her 37-year old son had been threatened by the UVF and told to stay out of Comber following a fight in a local bar.

The statement also revealed that police told Mr Strickland of a second threat against him while he was living on the Ballybeen estate, but she was not aware why this second threat had been issued.

Mrs Dempster's statement also revealed Philip's "attitude changed" when he was put out of Comber, and that he started saying what he wanted.

She said she was also aware that Philip had put comments on Facebook about Jimmy Seales being assaulted, in September 2011.

In her statement, she described her son as a "grafter" who wasn't perfect but was well liked, popular and who "never would have hurt anyone."

Mr Strickland was shot in the face at point blank range with a shotgun on the Ballydrain Road on the outskirts of Comber on 11 January, 2012.

On trial for his murder are Jimmy Seales, 56 and from Ballykeel Road in Hillsborough and Stephen McCaughey, 26, of Shackelton Walk, Newtownards.

Both men deny murdering Philip Strickland and possessing a shotgun with intent to endanger life.

Seales' two sons Ian and Jason Weir have already pleaded guilty to the murder.

Dr James Lynas, the assistant state pathologist for Northern Ireland, carried out an autopsy on Mr Strickland's remains on 13 January, 2012.

He told the jury that Mr Strickland died from a gunshot wound to the forehead, and that due to the seriousness of the injury, death would have been "rapid".

He also said it was his opinion that the gun was fired "at close range, probably no more than a metre or two" from Mr Stickland's head.

Dr Lynas also spoke of the severity of the gunshot wound to the victim's left leg, which caused a fracture to his thighbone and which punctured the main artery in his leg.

Dr Lynas told the court the wound would have caused heavy bleeding which, without prompt medical treatment, would have resulted in death.

© UTV News
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