Stephen Carson killing: gunman may just have wanted to frighten victim, court is told
The killing of a Belfast man shot dead through a bathroom door was not comparable to a murder committed by former paralympian Oscar Pistorius, a jury heard yesterday.
Pistorius is currently serving a prison sentence in South Africa for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, who died after she was shot through a locked bathroom door on Valentine's Day 2013.
Stephen Carson (28) lost his life after being shot through a closed door by a gunman who targeted him in the downstairs bathroom of his Walmer Street home in the Ormeau area of Belfast in February 2016.
Three cousins from west Belfast - Michael, David and Francis Smith - are being tried at Belfast Crown Court on offences arising from Mr Carson's death. The trio have denied all charges levelled against them.
Frank O'Donoghue QC, representing Michael Smith (40), who the Crown says was the gunman, highlighted the differences between the deaths of Mr Carson and Ms Steenkamp.
Raising the Pistorius case, Mr O'Donoghue said the former athlete "fired a hail of shots, four or five, through the cubicle of a toilet where his girlfriend was. He kept firing until she screamed 'no more'.
"Faced with that sort of evidence, you might well think a jury is satisfied that an intention was an intention to kill or cause serious harm to her."
But turning to the death of Mr Carson, Mr O'Donoghue told the jury: "This was not a case where there was evidence of screaming. This was a case where a gunman fired a single shot through a closed door."
In his closing speech to the jury of seven men and five women, Mr O'Donoghue also questioned the "actual intention" of the gunman, and suggested that he may just have wanted to threaten or frighten Mr Carson - a man who he said "lived in a very shady world" which included being under threat from CIRA, just being released from prison, dealing drugs and associating with Eastern European criminals.
Instead of firing a volley of shots, Mr O'Donoghue said that the gunman "fired blindly through a closed door", and the single shot was "consistent with being fired recklessly".
The barrister added this single shot "may have deflected or ricocheted and struck Mr Carson" in an enclosed, small space.
Michael Smith and his cousin David Smith (34), both with addresses in Monagh Drive, have deny murdering Mr Carson. Michael Smith has also been charged with possessing a firearm with intent to commit murder.
During the course of the month-long trial, the jury heard evidence from Mr Carson's fiancée, who was at home with his nine-year-old son when the fatal shooting occurred.
She later identified Michael Smith as the gunman and picked him out in a police identification procedure. Telling the jury Mr Carson's girlfriend wanted to "shop the Smiths", Mr O'Donoghue branded her identification evidence as "hopelessly compromised and completely contaminated".
Mr O'Donoghue claimed that while she was unable to give an initial description of the gunman to police in the direct aftermath of Mr Carson's death, she was able to pick Michael Smith out in an ID parade several days later - after speaking to Mr Carson's mother, who blamed the Smiths for her son's murder.
Acknowledging that Mr Carson's fiancée experienced a "deeply traumatic incident", Mr O'Donoghue urged the jury to treat her identification of his client with caution, and suggested "she was not identifying the gunman, she was identifying the person she knew to be Michael Smith".
Mr O'Donoghue also spoke of a lack of forensic evidence linking Michael Smith to the house at Walmer Street, or the sawn-off shotgun and cartridges that were found in his cousin Francis Smith's flat 25 hours after the killing.
Francis Gerard Patrick Smith (42), from Glenmurray Court in Belfast, faces five charges including assisting offenders by allowing his premises to be used for the storing of firearms and ammunition used in the course of murder, and also possessing both the shotgun and ammunition in suspicious circumstances.
His barrister Eilis McDermott QC branded the evidence against Francis Smith as "very limited", saying it amounted to a sawn-off shotgun and cartridges - which the Crown alleges was the murder weapon - being found in a holdall in a wardrobe in a bedroom.
She argued that there was a lack of evidence linking Francis Smith to the weapon, and told the jury they should acquit him on all five charges.