Philip Strickland murder: I saw victim shot in face, accused tells court
A man accused of murder has told a court how he witnessed the victim being shot in the face at point-blank rage with a shotgun.
Stephen McCaughey (26) is one of two men on trial at Belfast Crown Court for the murder of Philip Strickland, who was killed on January 11, 2012.
The farm labourer (37) was first shot in the leg at a yard on the Ballyglighorn Road near Comber. He was bundled into the boot of his car and driven a short distance to Ballydrain Road, where he was shot in the face.
Giving evidence at the trial, McCaughey – who has consistently denied being involved in shooting or assaulting Mr Strickland – said he was asked to go to the yard by Jason Weir.
McCaughey (26), from Shackleton Walk in Newtownards, told the jury he was unaware that Jason's brother Ian and their father Jimmy Seales (56) would also be there.
McCaughey said he saw two men – Jason and Mr Strickland – fighting in the yard. A Mercedes car then arrived at the scene and Seales got out of the car with a shotgun in his hand.
He said Mr Strickland began walking towards Seales. "That's when I heard the bang of the gun," he said.
McCaughey said Mr Strickland "hit the ground", and was assaulted by the Weir brothers before he was dragged over to his own car, a Citroen Saxo, and put into the boot. The car was driven a short distance to Ballydrain Road, where Mr Strickland was shot in the face.
McCaughey told the court that at this stage Ian Weir was in possession of the shotgun. He told the court: "I seen Ian firing a shot into the Saxo from the passenger side."
The next day McCaughey told police he knew nothing of the murder.
However, nine months later, in September 2012, McCaughey asked to be re-interviewed about the murder. When asked why he chose this course of action, McCaughey told the court: "I seen sense."
McCaughey and Seales, from Ballykeel Road in Hillsborough, 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.