Point-blank slaying of Philip Strickland final act in bitter feud that was to pit father against son in the courtroom
THE murder of Philip Strickland was the final, deadly act in a feud which robbed one family of a loved one and split another, turning father and son against each other.
Strickland – a one-time UVF associate described as "far from perfect" by his own mother – was shot dead in January 2012.
The farm labourer (37) was shot in the face in a car on Quarry Road near Comber.
The trial was told of ill-feeling between Strickland and Jimmy Seales in the months before the shooting.
When Seales was attacked and left for dead in an assault in September 2011, Strickland wrote "slabbering" comments about it on his Facebook page.
Alexander Aitken, a close friend of the deceased, told the jury he knew Strickland was having problems with the Seales family.
"I knew they were having problems on Facebook. I seen a couple of the messages. It was just general slabbering back and forth," he said.
Two of Seales' sons, Ian and Jason Weir, of Derryboye Road and Raffery Road, near Killinchy, had already pleaded guilty to Strickland's murder.
During the trial Ian Weir gave evidence against his father – who denied killing Strickland – placing him at the scene of the murder.
Weir said he and his brother Jason were in a yard on the Ballyglighorn Road when Seales arrived. He said his father was holding a shotgun.
"I heard a loud bang as my father was standing beside the car, and Philip Strickland approached my father," he said.
Weir said he didn't know what the bang was, but said Strickland collapsed. The trial heard how, after being shot in the leg, Strickland was bundled into the boot of his own car and driven a short distance to the Ballydrain Road, where he was shot in the face.
When asked about what happened on the Ballydrain Road, Ian Weir said: "There was a loud bang, the same one that I heard in the yard. My father was standing at the driver's side of the Citroen Saxo."
Weir said he walked back to his car and was followed by Seales, who got in and threw the shotgun at him. He told the jury he left the scene with his father and drove back to their house in Killinchy. Weir claimed Seales told him Strickland had previously beaten him and urinated on him when he was lying on the ground. In earlier court hearings it emerged Seales was a multi-millionaire who was under threat from loyalist paramilitaries.
During a bail application in March 2012, a prosecuting lawyer, opposing bail, said Seales himself disclosed that he had access to a £5m fortune.
At a later hearing it was claimed Seales set up a prison accident in a suspected attempt to get external medical treatment and possibly flee.
Prosecutors claimed he "manufactured" an incident where two other inmates crushed his hands with a drain cover.