Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Family's tears as CCTV images of murdered man Philip Strickland seen in court

Scene of the murder of Philip Strickland
Scene of the murder of Philip Strickland
Jimmy Seales, a 54 year old farmer from the Ballykeel Road near Hillsborough
Jimmy Seales, a 54 year old farmer from the Ballykeel Road near Hillsborough
Murdered man Philip Strickland, 36, who was found shot dead in a car on Quarry Road
Murdered man Philip Strickland, 36, who was found shot dead in a car on Quarry Road

The family of a murdered man cried in court as a jury was shown security camera footage of him 15 minutes before he was blasted to death with a shotgun.

The CCTV film played at Belfast Crown Court showed Philip Strickland's last recorded moments buying petrol at a filling station.

On trial for the Co Down man's murder are Jimmy Seales (56), from Ballykeel Road, Hillsborough, and 26-year old Stephen McCaughey, of Shackelton Walk, Newtownards.

Both men deny murdering Mr Strickland on the outskirts of Comber, Co Down, on January 11, 2012 and possessing a shotgun with intent to endanger life.

The jury heard there was ill-feeling between Mr Strickland and Seales.

When Seales was attacked and left for dead in an assault in September 2011, Mr Strickland wrote comments about it on his Facebook page.

Trial judge Mr Justice Weir was told that Seales claimed to have found a cannabis factory in one of his sheds in Hillsborough, which he had rented out to one of the three men who attacked him.

A detective told the court all three men were later arrested for questioning. The jury also heard from a police liaison officer based at Maghaberry Prison who said that Philip Strickland had visited one of the three men in the jail on November 12, 2011.

He said the visit was from 9.18am to 9.45am and that it was recorded on the prison computer as a "social visit". Two other men – brothers Ian and Jason Weir, the sons of Jimmy Seales – have already pleaded guilty to the murder.

The jury watched the CCTV footage police had recovered from a petrol station known as The Garage on the Killinchy Road in Comber on the night of Mr Strickland's murder.

Jimmy Seales, a 54 year old farmer from the Ballykeel Road near Hillsborough
Jimmy Seales, a 54 year old farmer from the Ballykeel Road near Hillsborough

A detective told the jury Mr Strickland's blue Citroen Saxo could be seen on the CCTV footage driving into the forecourt of the petrol station shortly before 8.30pm.

The officer said Mr Strickland put £16 of petrol into his car and went into the shop to pay for it. Seconds later the 37-year-old is seen on the CCTV camera walking out of the shop, before getting into his Saxo. The jury watched as Mr Strickland then drove out of the forecourt and onto the Killinchy Road.

At a previous hearing the jury heard that on the evening of the killing Mr Strickland drove to a friend's yard on the Ballyglighorn Road to collect oil drums. Jason Weir was present at the yard but he left when Mr Strickland arrived.

It is the Crown's case that a short time after he left the scene Jason Weir arrived back at the yard with his brother Ian, father Jimmy and Stephen McCaughey. The Crown say Mr Strickland was dragged from his car, beaten by the Weir brothers and shot in the leg by Seales. The victim was then bundled into the boot of his own car, which was driven onto the Ballydrain Road.

The car came to an abrupt stop when Mr Strickland escaped. He was then shot in the face at point-blank range and an attempt was made to burn the Saxo. The trial continues.

Trio appeared nervous and anxious: officer

A police officer told the court that on the night of the murder one of the two accused – Jimmy Seales – and his sons Jason and Ian Weir appeared "nervous and anxious".

A second constable claimed that Seales told her hours later that he was attacked in Ballygowan in November 2011, had his throat cut and left for dead.

The two Weir brothers have already pleaded guilty to the murder. The first officer was on patrol when he was tasked to a house at Raffrey Road, Crossgar, at around 10.40pm.

He said when he went into the house there were three men present – Seales and his sons.

"Mr Jimmy Seales told me that he had seen a burgundy-coloured Volkswagen Passat car enter his yard and a male person got out," said the officer. "He told me that one of his dogs started barking and the male person got back into the car and drove off. He said he had seen the car on his CCTV."

A female police officer then told the jury that she was tasked around 2.45am to go to a house on Derryboye Road, Killinchy, after the owner said the house alarm had been activated.

On arrival, the constable said: "I spoke to Ian Weir and he said that masked men had pulled up at the house in a dark-coloured saloon car.

"He said two of them got out – one of them climbed over the gate and the other threw over to him a shotgun."

Asked by a prosecution lawyer about Mr Weir's demeanour that night, the officer replied: "He was agitated. He was very nervous."

Victim's pal tells of feud on Facebook

A close friend of Philip Strickland told the court that he was aware of "slabbering" in Facebook messages posted by the dead man and the Seales family.

Alexander Aitken told the court he was a close friend of Mr Strickland and had been in contact with him hours before his murder.

But he added that he was not aware of problems Mr Strickland had with loyalist paramilitaries.

Mr Aitken said he was with Mr Strickland when he bought a Saxo car the day before his murder.

Mr Aitken said that evening at around 10pm he spoke to a friend.

"He told me that Philip was dead. He sounded hysterical."

Mr Aitken said he went down to the scene and stood at the police cordon at Ballydrain Road.

Under cross-examination from defence counsel Brian McCartney QC for Jimmy Seales, Mr Aitken told the jury that he knew Mr Strickland was having problems with the Seales family.

"I knew they were having problems on Facebook. I seen a couple of the messages. It was just general slabbering back and forth."

He denied knowing Mr Strickland was "having problems with the UVF" or was restricted from going to certain places by the UVF, or had been threatened.

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