3,000 pages of evidence over murder of loyalist Colin Horne, court told
Lawyers for five alleged loyalist killers are trawling through almost 3,000 pages of evidence before the case can proceed, a court has heard.
The men are jointly charged with the murder of Colin Horner on May 28 last year and with possessing a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life.
Mr Horner (35) was shot dead by a lone gunman moments after he had put his three-year-old son in the back of his car at the Sainsbury's car park in Bangor.
There was a heavy police presence at Newtownards Magistrates Court where a preliminary enquiry, the legal step necessary to refer a case up through the courts, had been scheduled.
But applying for that to be adjourned, defence counsel Aaron Thompson said the lawyers were still going through the evidence against the defendants.
"Papers were served four weeks ago," he told Deputy District Judge Joe Rice.
"They're just shy of 3,000 pages... with mobile phone, cell site analysis and technical data." They defendants are: Robert Ralph (47) from the Donaghadee Road in Ards; Adrian Price (48) from Bristol Park in Ards; Joseph Blair (34) from Shackleton Walk, Ards; Alan Wilson (29) from Ballyrainey Road, Ards, and Ryan Smyth (30) from Windsor Gardens in Bangor.
Standing alongside the alleged killers in the dock yesterday was 23-year-old Terrie Aicken, from the Green Road in Conlig.
She is accused of perverting the course of justice by providing police with a false statement on June 16 last year.
In court, Mr Thompson said that unless "I see some glaring error or omission, my provisional view is that the case will proceed by way of a PE (preliminary enquiry) rather than a PI" - a preliminary investigation that would require witnesses to testify to establish a prima facie case.
Freeing the defendants on continuing bail, Judge Rice adjourned the preliminary enquiry to July 6, ordering the accused to come back to court then.
The Horner murder has been linked to a feud among rival loyalist factions.
Giving evidence to the court when Smyth first appeared, a police officer said they believe he had "strong links to the UDA" and that the murder of Mr Horner was connected to the killing of George Gilmore, with "mounting tensions in south east Antrim UDA in an ongoing feud".
A lawyer said that while Wilson is not accused of pulling the trigger or being in the getaway car, it is the Crown case that he "scouted" the victim and phoned the gunman.
The prosecution claimed that Wilson's car was captured on CCTV following Mr Horner's car into Sainsbury's car park, while mobile phone records allegedly show he made a number of calls while the victim was in the supermarket.
Cell site analysis also allegedly links his mobile to the Kerr's Road area between Bangor and Newtownards where the getaway car was later found burnt out.
During Smyth's bail application there was a similar claim that cell site analysis places a mobile phone allegedly associated with Smyth in Sainsbury's car park at the time of the killing and a further claim that photographs of Mr Horner and his car were found on the phone.
Defence lawyers, however, submit that there is no direct evidence to link either man to the murder and that the circumstantial case thus far is weak.