Belfast Telegraph

Colin Horner murder: Mechanic's garage allegedly used as 'staging post' for loyalist feud killing

By Alan Erwin

A mechanic's garage was allegedly used as a "staging post" for a loyalist feud killing carried out in a busy supermarket car park, the High Court heard on Monday.

Prosecutors claimed getaway and scout cars left Ryan Smyth's premises before heading to the Sainsbury's store in Bangor where Colin Horner was shot dead last month.

Details emerged as 29-year-old Smyth, of Windsor Gardens in the Co Down town, was granted bail on a charge of murdering Mr Horner.

He also faces a second count of possessing a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

The 35-year-old victim was shot up to five times in front of his three-year-old son on May 28.

His killers escaped in a Ford Mondeo  later found burnt out on Kerr's Road between Bangor and Newtownards.

Detectives have linked the killing to mounting tensions within the UDA's South East Antrim brigade.

Mr Horner, originally from Carrickfergus, was said to have relocated to Co Down amid fears for his safety.

Two months before he was murdered his friend George Gilmore had been shot dead in Carrickfergus.

Smyth is allegedly linked to the supermarket shooting by telephone evidence, the court heard.

Prosecution counsel Adrian Higgins claimed cell-site analysis places a mobile connected with the accused in Sainsbury's car park at the time of the murder.

He also contended that photographs of the victim and his car were discovered on Smyth's phone.

The court heard how the defendant rents a yard at South Street in Newtownards for his work as a mechanic.

"Police believe that to be the staging post for the murder," Mr Higgins said.

"CCTV evidence shows the Mondeo getaway car and a Ford Focus (allegedly used by a co-accused to scout the victim) leave these premises about an hour before the murder."

Opposing bail, the barrister argued there was a risk of further offences.

"This murder occurred in the midst of what appears to be a feud between loyalist paramilitaries," he pointed out.

Smyth's legal team based their application on what they insist is a weak, circumstantial case.

Paul Bacon, defending, claimed that the charges against his client were based on cell-site analysis.

"There's no other direct evidence, there's no witness statements putting him at the scene," he stressed.

Mr Bacon also told the court Smyth is not seen on CCTV footage getting into any of the vehicles at the South Street premises on the day of the killing.

Granting bail, Mr Justice Maguire pointed to the need to ensure consistency and equal treatment with a co-accused already released from custody.

Imposing a curfew and monitoring conditions, the judge warned any breach will result on Smyth being returned to prison.

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