Farmer Jimmy Seales weeps in court as son places him at scene of Philip Strickland murder armed with a shotgun
A farmer accused of shooting a man in the face wept in court as his own son placed him at the murder scene armed with a shotgun.
Despite giving evidence against Jimmy Seales, Ian Weir told Belfast Crown Court that he loved his father, who denies involvement in the murder of Philip Strickland.
He told the jury: "My father always came first, I always put my father first. If he said jump, I would say, 'How high?' I do love my father. I love him today and I will always love him."
When this was said Seales – who up until that point had not looked at his son as he gave evidence – broke down in the dock.
But when it was suggested that he was lying about Seales' presence at the murder scene, Mr Weir said: "My father was there. You can believe whatever you want – but my father was there."
Mr Strickland, a 37-year old farm labourer, was found dead in his Citroen Saxo on the Ballydrain Road on the outskirts of Comber on January 11, 2012 after being shot at point-blank range.
Before the murder, Mr Weir said he, his brother Jason and Stephen Charles McCaughey were in a yard on the Ballyglighorn Road when his father arrived.
When asked where Mr Strickland was at this stage, Mr Weir said he was standing beside his Saxo, fighting with his brother Jason.
The prosecution witness – who along with his brother Jason has already pleaded guilty to murder – said Seales (56), from Ballykeel Road in Hillsborough, Co Down, was holding a shotgun.
He said: "I heard a loud bang as my father was standing beside the car, and Philip Strickland approached my father."
Mr Weir said he didn't know what the bang was but that Mr Strickland collapsed. When asked if he heard anything said, Mr Weir replied: "He said, 'I'm sorry Jimmy', or something."
It is the Crown's case that after being shot in the leg, Mr Strickland was bundled into the boot of his own car and driven a short distance to the Ballydrain Road, where he was shot in the face.
When asked about what happened on the Ballydrain Road, Mr Weir said: "There was a loud bang, the same one that I heard in the yard. My father was standing at the driver's side of the Citroen Saxo." Mr Weir claimed he then walked back to his car and was followed by his father, who got into the car and threw the shotgun at him, which he then pushed onto the floor. He told the jury he left the scene with his father and drove back to their house in Killinchy.
When asked if he talked to his father about what had happened, Mr Weir said: "I think I said, 'What was all that about?"
Mr Weir claimed his father told him that Mr Strickland had beaten him and urinated on him when he was lying on the ground.
Under cross-examination by Brian McCartney QC, the defence barrister for Seales, Mr Weir denied being a "habitual liar".
He also admitted that he lied to police about the murder, but claimed this was to protect his father.
As the cross-examination of Mr Weir continued, the 29-year-old denied being involved in an assault on the victim, telling the court: "I never touched Philip Strickland."
Mr Weir also denied giving evidence against his father to attract a shorter sentence.
Both Seales and 26-year-old Stephen Charles McCaughey from Shackleton Walk in Newtownards deny murder and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.
Ian Weir admitted that prior to his arrest for the murder of Philip Strickland, he was a chronic cannabis user. Brian McCartney QC told the court the relationship between Mr Weir and his father Jimmy Seales deteriorated because of Mr Weir's habit, which his client Seales was "very disapproving of". Mr Weir admitted spending £250 a week on cannabis and revealed he used to smoke up to 14 joints a day, but denied stealing from his father to fund his drug habit.