Northern Ireland

Three people are arrested over Comber murder

Three men have been arrested in connection with the murder of a man in County Down.

Philip Strickland, 36, was found shot dead in a car on Quarry Road, off the Ballydrain Road, near Comber.

A 54-year old man and his two sons aged, 26 and 25, were arrested on Thursday and taken to Antrim PSNI station.

The police have described it as a "vicious murder" and appealed for information.

The murder happened at about 21:00 GMT on Wednesday. Mr Strickland lived in east Belfast. He was found in the front of his car.

A number of passing motorists stopped to try to give him first aid following the attack. Mr Strickland as taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Detective Superintendent Brian Hanna said police were following a number of lines of inquiry.

"It's a vicious murder and it will impact on the community of Comber, and we recognise that," he said.

Image caption Detective Superintendent Brian Hanna said police were following a number of lines of inquiry.

"That's why we are working in tandem with our uniformed partners to ensure that the people in Comber, who are not used to this level of crime, do get the level of confidence and support from the police."

A local man reported hearing a bang to the police and thought there had been an accident.

He said: "I heard a deep thud which, I thought, was maybe the goats in the field next door - they bash the hut now and again.

"I took my own bin down to the bottom of the lane and on the way back up I could see blue lights and a couple of cars at the bottom of the hill. I thought a car had actually crashed into the bottom of the hedge. That's what it sounded like to me."

Car removed

He said he also heard "excited female voices" and thought people were standing about talking about a crash.

"It's a quiet area and the only gunfire you hear is the duck shooters on the lough," he said.

It is believed a number of vehicles made off along the Ballydrain Road in the direction of Lisbane after the incident.

Police removed a small blue car hatchback car away from the scene in a recovery vehicle and the area was cordoned off as forensic experts combed the ground for clues.

Ballydrain Road is a rural, narrow route south of Comber, close to the picturesque Strangford Lough.

It is around 10-15 miles from Belfast and is popular with fishermen and yachters.

Condemning the murder, First Minister Peter Robinson said: "Deeds like this have no place in society and those who carried out this murder have nothing positive to offer.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness added: "This action will be rightly condemned across the entire community and we all hope that the perpetrators of this senseless crime will be brought to justice as soon as possible."

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