Northern Ireland

John Boreland 'executed' outside home, court hears

John Boreland Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption John Boreland was a prominent member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA)

A former senior Ulster Defence Association (UDA) man was "executed" outside his Belfast home by loyalist paramilitaries, a court has heard.

John Boreland was shot three times with a shotgun close to his home at Sunningdale Gardens in August 2016.

Details of his murder were revealed when Thomas Boyd Pearson, 63, went on trial at Belfast Crown Court.

The accused, from Rathglynn in Antrim, denies a charge of making property available to terrorists.

The charge relates to a silver Renault Megane, which was the car used by the killers in John Boreland's murder.

Two men - Darren McAllister and Thomas O'Hara - have already pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice by burning the car after the murder. They are awaiting sentencing.

On the opening day of the non-jury trial, prosecutors said witnesses reported hearing a number of shots being fired and a car speeding from the Sunningdale Gardens area at about 21:45 BST Sunday, 7 August 2016.

CCTV footage recovered from Sunningdale Close showed a silver Renault Megane driving along Sunningdale Gardens. It was identified by an expert as a Mark II model.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption John Boreland was found slumped beside his car following the shooting in north Belfast

A prosecutor said that a witness described the Megane performing an "aggressive U-turn when it reached the junction of Sunningdale Gardens and Sunningdale Grove before driving back up Sunningdale Gardens".

The judge heard that a "few seconds later there were two loud bangs".

The body of Mr Boreland was found slumped beside his black Mercedes car.

A post-mortem examination said the victim had died from "significant head trauma'' caused by a shotgun wound to the head.

The prosecutor said that according to the autopsy, Mr Boreland was shot three times and that the fatal injury came from a shotgun being fired at close range to the "front and top of the head".

The senior prosecutor added: "The implication is that this was an execution."

'Set on fire'

The court heard that on the morning of Monday, 8 August, Thomas Boyd Pearson drove a silver Renault Megane to Derriaghy Road where he was working as a decorator.

On the same day, police issued an appeal for information in relation to three vehicles that had been seen leaving the scene of the murder, one of which was a silver Renault Megane.

The prosecutor said that on that day, Mr Pearson asked the owner of the house at Derriaghy Road if he could leave the Megane at her property overnight as he could not get it started.

The same evening, a Nissan Micra was driven from Carrs Glen Park, where Darren McAllister lived, to Derriaghy Road, and then straight back to north Belfast via Cliftondene Park where the accused then lived.

Image copyright Photo released by PSNI
Image caption A post-mortem examination showed that John Boreland died from "significant head trauma"

The prosecution barrister told Belfast Crown Court: "We know this because, as part of the terms of an insurance policy, a tracker device had been inserted into the Micra.''

The Renault Megane was collected from that address the next morning and driven to Wheelers Road in the Belfast hills "where it was set on fire''.

The prosecutor told the court: "The route was able to be identified by the tracker in the Micra. Again, it was driven from Carrs Glen Park, where Darren McAllister lived, to Cliftondene Park where Pearson lived and then on to Derriaghy Road arriving at 8.48 am."

The court heard that the Micra had stopped at the Maxol garage in Kingsway, Dunmurry, where petrol and a lighter were bought.

Car led to defendant

According to the tracker, the Micra drove to Wheelers Road and, at 09:35, a woman driving in the area spotted the Megane car on fire and called the Fire and Rescue Service.

The car was later seized by police who discovered that it had been sold by a casual car dealer to three men who called to his home in March 2016.

The car dealer said he recognised one of the men, as he had bought a car from him back in November 2015.

The prosecutor added: "That car, a Honda Jazz, led police to Thomas Pearson."

The defendant was arrested on 13 September, 2016, at his north Belfast home.

He said that he volunteered for Duncairn Community Partnership, a cross-community group and had been threatened because he worked there.

Asked about cars he used, the defendant made no mention of the silver Renault Megane car.

He was asked about a witness statement he had made to police on 11 August, 2016, and confirmed he had driven another car to a painting job, a Renault Megane, although he claimed he only had it a couple of weeks before and bought it from a man in a bar in north Belfast.

'Used by sinister individuals'

Later, he denied that he was one of three men who had gone to a casual car dealer to buy it.

He said that Darren McAllister had picked him up from the painting job on the Monday night and had driven back the next morning, Tuesday, August 9, and that there had been someone in the car with them who he said he did not know.

The accused said that he told McAllister to scrap the Megane car as it was no use.

The court heard that the defendant was shown CCTV footage from outside the house at Derriaghy Road, which showed the Megane being driven out onto the road on the Tuesday morning.

At the beginning of his next interview with detectives, the prosecutor said that a prepared statement was read out on Mr Pearson's behalf.

It read: "I'd nothing to do with this murder, I had no idea that my car was going to be used for anything illegal, events have clearly unfolded that have shown me that I have been used by sinister individuals.

"This is a matter of huge regret for me but, unfortunately, the reality of life is that I cannot risk my safety or, more importantly, the safety of my family by going into any more detail regarding how I have allowed myself to be used in such a way.''

Mr Pearson told detectives that he handed over his car because he was "scared".

He said that somebody came to him and said, "we need your car to do a wee message" and that it had happened weeks previously but he would not "name names".

Mr Pearson told detectives there was a "car load of them" and they came to his door one night.

'Came from the very top'

The court heard they didn't threaten him but said "we need it... a lend of your car".

The accused estimated that they had come back a few days before the murder actually happened.

He said that he was unsure about what to do and the man said to him: "You better do the right thing here."

He told detectives that he thought that if he didn't do it "something might happen to me'', so he said: "Well if that is the case you may take it."

They said they would call up for the keys and the accused claimed he had no other knowledge as to what was going to happen or when.

When asked by detectives if the men belonged to a specific group, Mr Pearson replied, "I'd say they do", but refused to say what group. His solicitor confirmed that the accused was referring to "an illegal organisation".

During a further police interview, detectives put it to the defendant that the person who threatened him could have been a mere foot soldier from the organisation.

He replied: "Well, I would say it came from the very top, the top of the tree."

Asked if it came from a high level in the north Belfast UDA, he said: "I know it came from a high level but I don't know whether it was north Belfast or some other area.''

He would not confirm to detectives that it was the UDA but when asked whether if it was terrorists he was in fear of, he said: "Aye, probably, yes."

It was then confirmed that he meant terrorists from the loyalist community within Belfast, the prosecutor added.

The trial continues.

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