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Gun accused denies killing was revenge over graffiti

A 56-year-old farmer accused of murder wept in court as he told a jury he had been beaten, urinated on and had a gun held to his head before he was left for dead in a cemetery.

Philip Strickland died on the outskirts of Comber on January 11, 2012 after he was shot in the face at point-blank range.

Standing trial at Belfast Crown Court for his murder are 56-year-old Jimmy Seales, from Ballykeel Road in Hillsborough, and 26-year-old Stephen Charles McCaughey, from Shackleton Walk in Newtownards. They both deny murder and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Seales' sons Jason and Ian Weir have already pleaded guilty to murder and, earlier in the trial, Ian gave evidence placing his father at the scene of the murder, armed with a shotgun. Seales has consistently denied being present, saying that on the evening Mr Strickland was killed he watched Emmerdale and then went to bed.

Giving evidence, Seales became emotional and broke down several times as he recalled being assaulted in a cemetery in Ballygowan four months prior to the murder.

Seales told the court he received the beating in September 2011 because he had previously asked a local man to remove cannabis that he found was being grown in a shed on land he owned. The farmer said he was contacted by one of the men who subsequently attacked him, asking him to come to Ballygowan to view pigs.

Seales said that when he arrived he was manhandled, stabbed in the mouth, then brought to the ground where he was beaten with iron bars and a piece of wood. He said: "They beat my arms and legs. I remember lying on the ground. I couldn't get up and my arms were like rubber. I couldn't move them."

Seales said he was urinated on, spat on and had a gun put to his head before being driven and dumped in a nearby cemetery. He suffered fractures to both arms, renal failure and soft tissue injuries. The defence argues Seales would have been unable to fire a shotgun due to these injuries to his arms.

Following the assault, graffiti began to appear in Comber which said 'Jimmy Seales, PSNI tout'. The graffiti was attributed to Mr Strickland, as were comments posted on Facebook about the attack on Seales.

When asked if the graffiti annoyed him, the accused replied: "No." When asked if he had wanted revenge, Seales replied: "No, that's not true."

The case continues.

Belfast Telegraph