Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Victim was threatened by UVF: Bereaved mother tells murder trial of terrorists' menacing warning

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 mother of a man shot in the face at point-blank range with a shotgun has said her son wasn't perfect but was well-liked and "never would have hurt anyone."

Philip Strickland was murdered on the Ballydrain Road on the outskirts of Comber on January 11, 2012.

On trial for his murder are Jimmy Seales (56), from Ballykeel Road in Hillsborough, and 26-year old Stephen McCaughey, of Shackelton Walk, Newtownards.

The victim's mother, Elizabeth Dempster, said her 37-year-old son had been threatened by the UVF and told to stay out of Comber following a fight in a local bar.

In her statement, read out at Belfast Crown Court, Mrs Dempster also revealed that police told Mr Strickland of a second threat against him while he was living on the Ballybeen estate, but she was not aware why this second threat had been issued.

Mrs Dempster revealed how her son's "attitude changed" when he was put out of Comber, and that he started saying what he wanted.

She said she was also aware that Mr Strickland had put comments on Facebook about Jimmy Seales being assaulted in 2011.

In her statement, she described her son as a "grafter" who wasn't perfect but was well-liked, popular and who "never would have hurt anyone".

Both Seales and McCaughey deny murdering Mr Strickland and possessing a shotgun with intent to endanger life.

Seales' two sons, Ian and Jason Weir, have already pleaded guilty to the Co Down man's murder.

Dr James Lynas, the Assistant State Pathologist for Northern Ireland, carried out an autopsy on Mr Strickland's remains on January 13, 2012.

He told the jury that Mr Strickland died from a gunshot wound to the forehead, and that due to the seriousness of the injury, death would have been "rapid". He also said it was his opinion that the gun was fired "at close range, probably no more than a metre or two" from Mr Strickland's head.

Dr Lynas also spoke of the severity of the gunshot wound to the victim's left leg which caused a fracture to his thighbone and punctured the leg's main artery.

He told the court that the wound would have caused heavy bleeding, which without prompt medical treatment would have resulted in death.

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