Northern Ireland

Philip Strickland murder: Accused help police search for weapon, court told

Philip Strickland Image copyright presser
Image caption Philip Strickland was found shot dead on 11 January, 2012

The jury in a murder trial has heard how one of the accused voluntarily helped detectives look for the weapon used in the killing.

Philip Strickland, 37, was shot in the leg in a yard and driven a short distance before being shot in the face in Comber, County Down in January 2012.

Stephen McCaughey from Shackleton Walk, Newtownards, denies the murder.

He helped police look for the weapon in March 2013 while he was being held on remand at Maghaberry prison.

Mr McCaughey's co-accused, 56-year-old farmer Jimmy Seales from Ballykeel Road in Hillsborough, County Down, also denies the murder.

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

Help police

Belfast Crown Court heard that on 26 September, 2012, Mr 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 replied: "No comment".

Under cross-examination, a detective confirmed to Mr McCaughey's defence lawyer that the reason he 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 lawyer said.

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

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

The court heard that Mr 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 Mr McCaughey and detectives.

'In a rage'

He 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, 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 Mr McCaughey told police Jimmy Seales got out of the Mercedes 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.''

Mr 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 told them this from the start, Mr 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?'"

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

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

The trial continues.

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