'Suspect in murder has access to at least £5m'
A farmer accused of murdering a man in Co Down is under threat from loyalist paramilitaries, the High Court heard.
Prosecutors also claimed Jimmy Seales has access to over £5m and may leave Northern Ireland if released from custody.
Details emerged as the 54-year-old was granted bail to undergo hospital assessments in a bid to strengthen his case that he could not have killed Philip Strickland.
Mr Strickland (36) was shot dead in a car near Comber on January 11.
Seales, from Ballykeel Road, Hillsborough, is one of four men charged with his murder.
It was previously disclosed that he was himself allegedly kidnapped and viciously assaulted months before the shooting.
Seales' lawyers claim his injuries meant he was incapable of firing the shotgun said to have been used in the killing.
They argued that urgent medical and forensic examinations were necessary in order to help prove their case.
Opposing the application, a prosecution barrister said an eyewitness claimed to have been in a struggle with Seales, who was armed with a shotgun, in Comber around 15 minutes before Mr Strickland's body was found.
It was alleged that the farmer, accompanied by two other suspects, threatened the man.
According to the prosecution a second witness told police that someone else charged in connection with the killing confided in the witness that he was present and that Seales shot Mr Strickland in the head and leg. Seales denies involvement in the murder.
Confirming that the gun used in the shooting has never been recovered, the prosecution claimed that the accused would have the chance to get rid of it if released.
He added: “He (Seales) himself disclosed that he has access to a large sum of money, believed to be in excess of £5m.
“There is an identified threat to this applicant from loyalist paramilitaries and I am instructed that PM1s (threat messages) have been issued to him.”
It was further claimed that a co-accused told prison staff that Seales was planning to “take off down south” where he has friends from farming deals.
Brian McCartney QC disputed the finances available to his client. “The figure of £5m is ridiculous,” the defence barrister said.
Mr Justice Stephens ordered that Seales must remain in police custody while on temporary bail, with his solicitor to be present at all times.
Story so far
Philip Strickland (36) was found shot dead in a car on Quarry Road near Comber on 11 January. He was shot a number of times from behind with a shotgun. Currently four men have been charged in connection with his murder.