Stephen Carson: Gunman 'may have wanted to frighten victim'

Image source, PSNI
Image caption,
Stephen Carson was 28-years-old when he was murdered

The person who fired the shot that killed a Belfast man may only have wanted to threaten him, a court has been told.

Stephen Carson died after being shot in the head through a bathroom door in his house in Walmer Street, in 2016.

Two cousins from west Belfast, Michael "Spud" Smith, 40, and David "Dee" Smith, 34, both of Monagh Drive, deny murder.

A third cousin, Francis Smith, 42, denies offences linked to the murder.

Michael Smith's lawyer told the court Mr Carson "lived in a very shady world", which included being under threat from Continuity IRA, having just been released from prison, dealing drugs and associating with criminals from eastern Europe.

Instead of firing a volley of shots, the QC said the gunman "fired blindly through a closed door", and the single shot was "consistent with being fired recklessly".

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
The murder happened in Walmer Street in south Belfast in February 2016

During the course of the month-long trial, the jury heard evidence from Mr Carson's fiancée, who was at home with his nine-year-old son when the fatal shooting occurred.

She later identified Michael Smith as the gunman, the court heard, and picked him out in a police identification procedure.


Telling the jury the woman wanted to "shop the Smiths", his lawyer branded her identification evidence as "hopelessly compromised and completely contaminated".

The lawyer claimed that while she was unable to give an initial description of the gunman to police in the direct aftermath of Mr Carson's death, she was able to pick Michael Smith out from the ID parade several days later - after speaking to Mr Carson's mother, who blamed the Smiths for her son's murder.

He advised the jury to treat the identification evidence with caution.

The lawyer also spoke of a lack of forensic evidence linking Michael Smith to the house at Walmer Street, or the sawn-off shotgun and cartridges that were found in his cousin Francis Smith's flat 25 hours after the killing.

Image caption,
Stephen Carson died after being shot in the head through a bathroom door

Francis Gerard Patrick Smith (42), from Glenmurray Court in Belfast, faces five charges including assisting offenders by allowing his premises to be used for the storing of firearms and ammunition used in the course of murder, and also possessing both the shotgun and ammunition in suspicious circumstances.

His barrister asked the jury to "pause and reset your brains" when considering the charges.

Describing the evidence against Francis Smith as "very limited", lawyer said it amounted to a sawn-off shotgun and cartridges - which the prosecution says was the murder weapon - being found in a holdall in a wardrobe in a bedroom.

Michael Smith was also present in the flat when the gun was found.

The lawyer said there was no evidence as to how the holdall or its contents got there, and no evidence about who brought the shotgun and cartridges to Francis Smith's home.

"There is no evidence about when they were brought into this flat. There is no evidence as to whether Francis Smith was in his flat when they were brought in," she said.

"There is no evidence as to when Michael Smith arrived at the flat, and there is no evidence as to who else may have been in the flat all of that day."

She added there was no fingerprint or DNA evidence linking her client to the weapon.

For these reasons, the lawyer told the jury they should acquit Francis Smith on all five charges.

The trial continues.