Belfast Telegraph

Cheers in court as trio cleared of murdering Gilmore in UDA feud

Geordie Gilmore died from a catastrophic brain injury after he was shot in Carrickfergus in 2017.
Geordie Gilmore died from a catastrophic brain injury after he was shot in Carrickfergus in 2017.

By John Cassidy

Three men have been found not guilty of the UDA feud murder of loyalist Geordie Gilmore.

Brian Roy McLean (37), of Valetta Park, Newtownards; Robert Darren McMaw (34), of Kilgreel Road, Antrim; and his younger brother Samuel David McMaw (30), of Starborg Road, Kilwaughter in Larne, were acquitted of his murder, the attempted murder of another man and possession of a firearm with intent.

Mr Justice McAlinden said he had not been persuaded “beyond reasonable doubt” about the guilt of all three.

The verdict was met with cheers from the defendants in the dock, along with associates inside and outside the courtroom, where police had a significant presence throughout proceedings.

Mr Gilmore was shot on March 13, 2017, as he drove along Pinewood Avenue in Carrickfergus in his white Vauxhall Insignia car.

The 44-year-old died in hospital the following day from a “catastrophic brain injury as a result of a bullet wound”.

It was the prosecution’s case that Mr Gilmore’s two-car convoy had been followed to Carrick from Belfast Magistrates’ Court, where he had been attending the case of three men charged with an attack on a doorman in a Carrickfergus bar days earlier.

When they returned to Carrick, the Gilmore party stopped at a bakery in the town centre before travelling to the Woodlands estate, where his car was shot at six times.

The Crown claimed that the gunman was David McMaw,  with Brian Roy McLean acting as a look-out and Darren McMaw involving himself in a “scouting exercise” by following Mr Gilmore in his van prior to the fatal gun attack.

All three defendants declined to give evidence during the trial and all denied the offences against them.

Robert Darren McMaw
Robert Darren McMaw
Brian Roy McClean
Forensic experts examine the murder scene in Carrickfergus.

Witnesses had identified David McMaw as the gunman who fired from an alleyway.

Barristers for each of the defendants argued that the Crown had failed to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, the guilt of their clients.

In yesterday’s ruling, Mr Justice McAlinden said the evidence of three Crown witnesses in the case, including that of the victim’s son George Gilmore Jr, were “incapable of belief and no conviction in this case would be safely founded with this evidence”.

The witnesses had claimed to have seen David McMaw with a balaclava on his head and armed with a gun.

One witness who was in the front passenger seat of Mr Gilmore’s car told an ambulance service operator during a 999 call that one of the bullets had “whizzed past his head” before hitting the deceased in the neck.

He told the operator that it was “(David) ‘Dee Dee’ McMaw... he fired six shots. I watched him pull the trigger above me. ‘Dee Dee’ McMaw ran out of the alley and fired six shots”.

The judge said: “Having listened to this telephone call, I am convinced that during this call the witness was being given information or was overhearing information provided by others at the scene.

“He was giving a grossly inaccurate account to others of what he actually saw that afternoon.”

Regarding the witness saying that the bullet had “whizzed past me”, Mr Justice McAlinden said: “This is simply not true. It did not happen.

“The bullet which struck Mr Gilmore Sr struck him on the right side of the back of the head as he was seated in the driver’s side of the car.

“Whatever the prior trajectory of this bullet, it did not whizz right past the witness’s head, who was seated in the front passenger seat of the vehicle.”

Mr Justice McAlinden said that after considering the evidence of the three Crown witnesses, he had been “led to the inescapable conclusion that the evidence given is utterly implausible and incapable of belief”.

George
George "Geordie" Gilmore

The judge added: “I simply do not believe that any of these witnesses saw what they say they saw on the day in question.”

Mr Justice McAlinden, however, concluded that “the movements of Darren McMaw in his van were reasonably consistent with him trying to locate the whereabouts and tracking the route of the Gilmore party” around the time of the attack.

He said that he believed that if the three defendants had given evidence at their trial, it would “not have borne examination”.

The judge said that David McMaw and Brian Roy McLean had disappeared for a number of days after the shooting.

“This period of time had clearly allowed for a decontamination process in relation to firearms residues and other forensically significant material such as fibre deposits,” he added.

“These defendants decommissioned and put beyond reach from police mobile phones that were in use in the lead-up to the shooting and in the immediate period thereafter.

“This is a case of suspects deliberately taking steps to ensure that the phones in question were never made available for forensic examination.”

Despite drawing “adverse inferences” from the decision of the defendants not to give evidence, Mr Justice McAlinden said he was finding the trio not guilty on all the charges.

The judge described the murder of Mr Gilmore senior as “an utterly reckless attack” at a time “when very young children were making their way home from the nearby primary school”.

He noted how a stray bullet hit a wall inside a nearby house.

“Anyone standing behind that front door, or on the stairs in that house, would have been killed or seriously injured by this reckless disregard for human life,” he said.

“When is this society going to realise that these self-styled paramilitary organisations are nothing other than a cancer feeding off the deeply rooted tribal fears of the communities in which they operate, and that resorting to the use of a gun solves nothing and only serves to engender further violence and the further perpetuation of hatred?”

As there were no applications from either the Crown or the defence, Darren McMaw and Brian Roy McLean walked free from court. David McMaw was remanded back into custody on other matters.

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