THE jury in the Philip Strickland murder trial heard today (Monday) how one of the accused voluntarily helped detectives look for the weapon used in the killing.
The 37-year-old victim was first shot in the leg in a yard with a shotgun and then later blasted to death with the same gun as he sat in a car off the Ballydrain Road near Comber, Co Down, on 11 January 2012.
Two men – 56-year-old farmer Jimmy Seales from Ballykeel Road in Hillsborough and 26-year-old Stephen McCaughey from Shackleton Walk, Newtownards – deny the murder.
Two of Jimmy Seales’ sons – Ian and Jason Weir from the Derryboye Road and the Raffery Road, near Killinchy – have already pleaded guilty to murder.
The jury heard on September 26. 2012, Stephen McCaughey was interviewed voluntarily at Maghaberry prison where he had been on remand for eight months.
During the course of his interview, he was asked by detectives if he knew of the whereabouts of the shotgun, but McCaughey replied: ‘No comment’.
Under cross examination, a detective confirmed to McCaughey’s defence QC that the reason had given a ‘no comment’ answer to the question was that before the taped interview had started he said he could police find the gun.
“He indicated that from the information he had received he believed he could assist in the location of the weapon, isn’t that correct?”
The detective replied: “Yes, that’s correct.”
The defence counsel said that after the interviews were completed, McCaughey was taken from Maghaberry prison on March 4, 2013, to assist police in helping to locate the weapon.
The court heard that McGaughey accompanied police on that date to Raffery Road where a search of the property was carried out.
The detective told the court: “The weapon still has not been recovered.”
Earlier, the jury listened to a number of voluntary taped interviews between McCaughey and detectives in Maghaberry prison.
McCaughey told police that he arrived at the yard after receiving a phone call from Jason Weir to meet him there as there was “going to be a scuffle”.
He said that as he pulled up at the yard in his Peugeot car, a Mercedes car “screamed past him, the wheels skidded and the car went into reverse.”
The jury, sitting with trial judge Mr Justice Weir, heard that McCaughey told police that Jimmy Seales got of the Mercedes car and was “carrying a shotgun”.
“Jimmy said to me: ‘McCaughey, stay out of this. This has got nothing to do with you’. He was in a rage. He had five times the strength of me.”
McCaughey said that he then heard a “dull shot” and Philip Strickland was lying on the ground, with and Jason and Ian Weir kneeling over him, punching and kicking him.
“I seen a hell of a lot of blood coming out of that man’s leg. It look as if the blood was running down the yard.”
Asked by detectives why he had not them told this from the start, McCaughey replied: “To be honest, I seen what Jimmy did to that man and stuff, he had threatened me.
“I just wasn’t thinking straight at all. My head was melting. I thought if they are capable of doing that what are they capable of doing to me.”
Jimmy Seales has consistently denied any role in the murder of Philip Strickland.
He maintains that on the night of the murder he was at home that night, watched Emmerdale on television and then went to bed.
The trial continues.