Northern Ireland

Christopher Mackin murder: Belfast husband and wife on trial

Christopher Mackin Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Christopher Mackin died after he was shot in Belfast city centre in March 2012

A husband and wife have gone on trial for the murder of a man in Belfast city centre nearly five years ago.

Christopher Mackin was shot at least seven times outside his College Square North home on 1 March 2012.

Charles Stephen Valliday, 45, and Julie Ann Valliday, both now with addresses in Islay Street in Antrim, deny murder.

The couple also deny possessing a revolver, ammunition and a £70,000 haul of cocaine and heroin found hidden in a car said to belong to Mrs Valliday.

Her husband's DNA was later found on the revolver and on bags containing the class A drugs, the court heard.

Mr Valliday's brother James John Valliday, 51, of Springfield Meadows in Belfast, is accused of but denies assisting offenders after the shooting.

'Pistol never found'

In his opening statement, a prosecutor told Belfast Crown Court that Mrs Valliday drove her husband to the scene "with the knowledge he was to shoot Christopher Mackin".

"There can be no doubt but that the intention of the gunman was to kill Mackin," he said.

The prosecutor said the car was later abandoned in north Belfast where it was doused with petrol, allegedly bought by James Valliday, and set on fire in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

The court also heard that 15 shots were fired at 31-year-old Mr Mackin, possibly from a self-loading pistol, which has never been found.

Mrs Valliday disposed of that gun, the prosecution claimed.

A post-mortem examination revealed that Mr Mackin was hit by at least seven bullets, causing wounds to the abdomen and his left thigh.

One bullet caused "catastrophic injuries to his inner vital organs, including his aorta, right kidney and liver" that probably resulted in his rapid death.

The prosecution lawyer said that witnesses described seeing Mr Mackin in a distinctive white T-shirt, looking anxious, panicky and "stressed out".

As he talked on his mobile phone, they heard "the sound of gunfire", which one witness described as "sharp loud cracking sounds".

'Lied in texts'

Mr Mackin's mobile phone is "a most important piece of evidence in his case", the prosecutor said, as it contained details of contact between the victim and Mrs Valliday "during the day and up to the time of the murder".

That evidence, the lawyer claimed, "speaks almost from his grave".

He also said that Mrs Valliday had lied to Mr Mackin in text messages, telling him that she was alone and wanted to buy drugs from him as it was "clear from the tenor" of their contact that Mr Mackin was "increasingly anxious" about any meeting with her husband.

The lawyer alleged that Mrs Valliday tried to assure Mr Mackin that her husband "was out of the picture" in an attempt to make sure he would keep their appointment.

The court also heard that CCTV images taken from several locations in Belfast provided "a vivid picture" of the Vallidays' involvement in the case.

The prosecution said that the evidence would be "clear, cogent and persuasive to the extent" that the jury would be satisfied of the guilt of the accused.

He added that the case "depends to a very large extent on circumstantial evidence rather than direct evidence", although he told the jury not to "think it is of any less strength than direct evidence" and it would give them "the skeleton on which you can build the muscle and skin".

Once presented, he said, the evidence would point only in one direction - an "irresistible conclusion" of guilt.

The trial is expected to last for up to six weeks.

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