A police officer has been acquitted of trying to wound a man he shot at six times as he fled from a car.
The Belfast Crown Court jury deliberated for just 40 minutes before unanimously acquitting Sergeant Stephen Mathieson yesterday of four counts of attempting to wound Kyle Wylie with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
During the two-week hearing the jury heard how police were following a green Rover car in north Belfast on March 17, 2007, as part of an investigation into a double murder carried out by dissident republicans when the incident happened.
Police believed the car, being driven by convicted drug dealer Wylie, had spirited away the main suspect in the murders and when he turned off the Cliftonville Road to avoid a police checkpoint, officers pursued him. Giving evidence to the court, Wylie claimed he did so because he was driving without a licence, tax or insurance and denied knowing anything about the murders.
He maintained throughout the trial that he was not armed when he ran away from Sergeant Mathieson who shot at him six times during the chase along Ardilea Street, Church View, Mayfair Court and Ballycastle Court.
The jury heard the man police were chasing had abandoned a Ford Focus car at Allworthy Avenue, close to where one of the murder victims was found, and was seen leaving a house on the Cliftonville Road in a green Rover car. Wylie also denied knowing anything about the Ford or the suspect.
During interviews with the Police Ombudsman, who brought the case to court, and later while giving evidence on his own behalf, Sergeant Mathieson, who had 27 years service and was due to retire three weeks after the incident, claimed he believed Wylie had been armed with a handgun which he pointed at him.
The officer, whose address was given as Grosvenor Road PSNI station, told the jury he shouted several warnings for Wylie to stop and said he only shot at him because he was in fear for his own life and wanted to “eliminate the threat” posed to him.