The "viability" of the trial of a man who denies murdering two men 15 years ago was called into question on Wednesday as it was adjourned just one day after starting.
The prosecution QC in the no-jury trial claimed Gerard Lagan (43), originally from Butler Walk in north Belfast, lured friends Edward Burns and Joseph Jones to their deaths in the early hours of March 12, 2007, using his mobile phone.
However, the prosecution lawyer applied for a week-long adjournment, citing the discovery of a "document hitherto unseen by the Public Prosecution Service" regarding the mobile phone evidence and requiring further investigation by both the prosecution and defence.
While not opposing the adjournment, defence QC warned that whatever the review turned up, it was uncertain where "that leads us as to the validity of the trial after that".
The defence lawyer said "the issue of the integrity of the phone evidence is fundamental and we would encourage a root and branch review" of the evidence, which she added "goes to the heart of the case".
In adjourning the case, Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice O'Hara, sitting in Antrim, described the situation as "unsatisfactory to say the least. It’s almost exactly 15 years since Mr Burns and Mr Jones were killed, and after one day of evidence, there is an application by the prosecution to adjourn the whole case".
In addition to the prosecution claims about the mobile phone evidence, it was also alleged Lagan, whose address on court papers is Ratheen Close, Tallaght, Dublin, could also be linked to the murders by the GPS movements of a Ford Focus.
The court heard that 36-year-old Edward Burns from the Ardoyne in north Belfast was the first to die after being shot once in the side of the head. His body was found in a car park near a GAA club at Bog Meadows off the Falls Road at around 4.30am.
His 38-year-old friend, Joseph Jones, from Poleglass in west Belfast, was battered to death with a spade, leaving him totally unrecognisable and only identifiable through his fingerprints.
He was found three hours later in an alleyway in the Elmfield Street area of Ardoyne by a man who initially thought his body was a rag.
In the aftermath of the murders, the prosecution claimed Lagan, along with two others, fled to the Republic "never to return". Although arrested and interviewed by Garda in November of 2007, "he declined to answer any questions about any of the persons referred to or of the events".