Tears at shotgun murder footage

Published Monday, 20 January 2014
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The family of Phillip Strickland wept in court on Monday afternoon as they were shown video footage of him just minutes before he was murdered.

Tears at shotgun murder footage
Jimmy Seales denies the murder of Phillip Strickland. (© Pacemaker)

The 37-year-old victim was shot in the face and leg with a shotgun as he sat in a car off the Ballydrain Road near Comber, Co Down, on 11 January 2012.

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.

Members of Mr Strickland's family wept in the public gallery of Belfast Crown Court as it was shown footage of him arriving at a garage, putting petrol in his car and paying for it.

Fifteen minutes later Mr Strickland was murdered.

The prosecution claim the victim was beaten by Jimmy Seales' sons in a yard off the Ballyglighorn Road before Jimmy Seales shot him with a shotgun in the leg.

Phillip Strickland was then placed in the boot of his own car and, as he tried to climb out, the prosecution claims Jimmy Seales shot him in the face with the shotgun at point blank range.

The jury heard there was ill feeling between Mr Strickland and Seales.

When Seales was attacked and left for dead in an assault which occurred in September 2011, Mr Strickland wrote comments about it on his Facebook page.

A detective told the jury that Mr Strickland's blue Citroen Saxo car could be seen on the garage's CCTV footage driving into the forecourt of the petrol station shortly before 8.30 pm.

The officer said Mr Strickland put £16 of petrol into his car and then walked into the shop dressed in a Superdry coat, jeans, check shirt and boots, to pay for his fuel.

Seconds later, the 37-year-old is seen on the CCTV camera walking out of the shop, getting into his Saxo car.

The jury watched as Mr Strickland then drove out of the forecourt and onto the Killinchy Road.

At a previous hearing, the jury heard that on the evening of the killing, Mr Strickland drove to a friend's yard on the Ballyglighorn Road to collect oil drums.

Jason Weir was present at the yard but he left when Mr Strickland arrived.

It is the Crown's case that a short time after he left the scene, Jason Weir arrived back at the yard with his brother Ian, father Jimmy Seales and Stephen McCaughey.

The Crown say Mr Strickland was dragged from his car, beaten by the Weir brothers and shot in the leg by Seales.

The victim was then bundled into the boot of his own car, which left the yard and was driven onto the Ballydrain Road.

The jury heard the car came to an abrupt stop when Mr Strickland managed to escape from the boot.

He was then shot in the face at point blank range and an attempt was made to burn the car.

Alexander Aitken told the court that he was a close friend of Philip Strickland and had been in contact with him hours before his murder.

He said that he was with Mr Strickland when he bought the Saxo car the day before his murder and on the evening of the killing a firend infomed him of the shooting.

He told the trial: "He told me that Philip was dead. He sounded hysterical.

"My first reaction was that he crashed the car."

Mr Aitken said he went down to the scene and stood at the police cordon at Ballydrain Road.

Under cross-examination from defence counsel Brian McCartney QC for Jimmy Seales, Mr Aitken told the jury that he knew Philip Strickland was having problems with the Seales family over a social networking site.

He said: "I knew they were having problems on Facebook.

"I saw a couple of the messages, it was just general slabbering back and forth between them."

Mr McCartney QC asked the witness: "Were you aware that Mr Strickland was having problems with the UVF?"

Mr Aitken replied: "No."

Mr McCartney QC asked him: "Were you aware that he was restricted from going to certain places by the UVF and the UVF had threatened him?"

Mr Aitken again answered: "No."

A police officer told the court that on the night of the murder he was on patrol when he was tasked around 10.40pm to a house at Raffrey Road, Crossgar.

He said he went into the house and there were three males present. They were Jimmy Seales and his son Jason and Ian Weir.

He said they all looked "nervous and anxious".

"Mr Jimmy Seales told me that he had seen a burgundy-coloured Volkswagen Passat car entered his yard and a male person got out of the car," said the officer.

"He told me that one of his dogs started barking and the male person got back into the car and drove off me.

"He said he had seen the car on his CCTV."

A female police officer then told the jury that she was tasked around 2.45am to go to a house on the Derryboye Road, Killinchy after the owner said the house alarm had been activated.

On arrival at the house, the constable said: "The black wrought iron gates were opened for us automatically.

"I spoke to Ian Weir and he said that masked men had pulled up at the house in a dark-coloured saloon car.

"He said two of them got out - one of them climbed over the gate and the other threw over to him a shotgun."

Asked by a prosecution lawyer about Mr Weir's demeanour that night, the officer replied: "He was agitated. He was very nervous."

She said that Ian Weir told her that the masked men in the car had then driven off in direction of Killinchy.

He told her that he had seen the men on his CCTV camera system but added that it was not able to record.

The constable said that Mr Weir told her that the men returned for a second time and started "shaking the gates" before driving off in the direction of Crossgar.

She continued: "I asked him why he was so agitated and he replied: 'So would you f**king be. I am sorry for cursing. My head is all over the place here'."

The court heard that Jimmy Seales arrived in a red Peugeot car being driven by his son Jason Weir.

The officer added: "Mr Seales told me that he had been seriously assaulted on 2 September, 2011 in Ballygowan in which he was beaten with iron bars, had his throat cut and was left dead.

"He said he had metal plates and pins in his arms and needed skin grafts for his injuries."

Trial judge Mr Justice Weir was told that Mr Seales claimed to have found a cannabis factory in one of his sheds in Hillsborough which had he had rented out to one of the three men who attacked him.

A detective told the court that all three men were later arrested for questioning.

The jury also heard from a police liaison officer based at Maghaberry prison who said that Philip Strickland had visited one of the three men in the jail on November 12, 2011.

He said the visit was from 9.18am to 9.45am and that it was recorded on the prison computer as a "social visit".

The trial continues.

© UTV News
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