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American man wanted over murder in Florida came to Northern Ireland because he fell in love, court hears

By Alan Erwin

An American man wanted over a drugs-related murder in Florida came to Northern Ireland because he fell in love, a court heard today.

Counsel for 22-year-old Jonah Horne disputed suggestions that he fled following the fatal shooting last summer.

Sean Doherty said: "He has arrived in this jurisdiction not as a fugitive, but because he fell in love with a girl from here.

"She is pregnant with their child, he met her when she was working in the United States."

US authorities are seeking Horne's extradition for his alleged role in the murder of Jacob Walsh on June 7, 2016.

The 25-year-old victim was shot outside apartments at North Military Trail, Boca Raton.

His killing was linked to an apparent drug deal, according to reports at the time.

Horne was detained under a provisional warrant at a house on Drumard Drive in Lisburn, Co Antrim on March 13.

As he applied for bail at Laganside Courts in Belfast, it was claimed that DNA, video and witness evidence connects him to the killing.

Stephen Ritchie, representing the US authorities, said Mr Walsh's blood was found in a vehicle connected to Horne.

"The application for bail is resisted not only because of the seriousness of the offence, but also because this man is a fugitive," the barrister argued.

"There's a strong presumption that he came to Northern Ireland in some way to evade arrest in Florida."

Judge Patricia Smyth was also told a proposed bail address in Lisburn was unoccupied when police carried out checks.

However, Mr Doherty countered that Horne's partner has a lease for the flat.

He claimed police in Florida never informed his client they wanted to speak to him about the murder.

Horne spent several weeks in Northern Ireland last summer and then returned again in October to be with his partner, the court heard.

According to his lawyers he is a university graduate who volunteered for a Christian Fellowship organisation, working with people with special needs.

During proceedings it was disclosed that the wanted man's mother is prepared to put up a £5,000 cash surety to secure his release from custody.

His girlfriend, who attended the hearing, was also said to be willing to sign bail for him.

Mr Doherty also emphasised the need for assurances Horne would not face the threat of a death penalty if returned to the US.

Judge Smyth ruled that she was not prepared to grant bail at this stage.

However, she left the door open for a renewed application once clarification is provided on Horne's alleged fugitive status.

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