Belfast Telegraph

Philip Strickland: Farmer accused of killing Comber man 'placed at the murder scene by his own son'

By Ashleigh McDonald

A Co Down farmer who denies murdering Comber man Philip Strickland was today placed at the murder scene, armed with a shotgun, by his own son.

Ian Weir was giving evidence for the prosecution against his father Jimmy Seales, who denies involvement in the murder of Mr Strickland.

The 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 in the face at point blank range. 

Seales (56) from Ballykeel Road in Hillsborough denies murdering Mr Strickland but earlier today his son Ian Weir told a jury at Belfast Crown Court that his father was present and armed with a shotgun when Mr Strickland was killed.

Mr Weir said both himself, his brother Jason and Stephen Charles McCaughey were in a yard on the Ballyglighorn Road when his father arrived. When asked where MrStrickland 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 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.

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". When it was suggested that he was lying about Seales presence, Mr Weir said: "My father was there. You can believe whatever you want but my father was there."

Mr Weir admitted that prior to his arrest for the murder, he was a chronic cannabis user. He also admitted that he lied to police about the murder - but claimed this was to protect his father. 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 - wept in the dock.

As the cross examination of Mr Weir continued Brian McCartney QC, 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.

Mr McCartney told the court the relationship between father and son deteriorated because of Mr Weir's chronic cannabis 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 money from his father to fund his drug habit.

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.

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