Loyalist murder accused breached bail through ‘stupidity’

Flowers at the scene of the murder of Colin Horner in Bangor
Flowers at the scene of the murder of Colin Horner in Bangor

A mechanic accused of a loyalist feud killing carried out in a supermarket car park forgot to report in with police three times out of “stupidity”, the High Court has heard.

Ryan Smyth’s lawyer argued there was nothing sinister about his repeated breaches of bail while charged with the murder of Colin Horner in Bangor, Co Down.

Releasing the 30-year-old from custody once more, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan ordered he must now sign in with the PSNI daily.

He warned that any further lapses could see him remain in prison until his trial.

Mr Horner, 35, was shot up to five times in front of his three-year-old son outside Sainsbury’s on May 28.

Smyth, of Windsor Gardens in Bangor, is allegedly linked to the killing by telephone evidence.

Prosecutors claimed his role involved travelling in a getaway car used by the gunman.

The victim was followed and tracked in a car driven by another suspect in the case, the court heard.

A Crown lawyer said Smyth was seen with him before and after the shooting.

It was also alleged at a previous hearing that his garage was used as a “staging post” before getaway and scout cars headed to the scene of the murder.

The killers escaped in a Ford Mondeo later found burnt out on Kerr’s Road between Bangor and Newtownards.

Detectives have linked the killing to mounting tensions within the UDA’s South East Antrim brigade.

Mr Horner, originally from Carrickfergus, was said to have relocated to Co Down amid fears for his safety.

Two months before he was murdered his friend George Gilmore had been shot dead in Carrickfergus.

Smyth was granted bail back in June, on conditions which included reporting to police five times a week.

But he was returned to custody after failing to sign in for a third time last week.

Sir Declan was told he had been warned about non-compliance, which he explained as down to simply forgetting.

Defence counsel Dennis Boyd argued: “It’s stupidity rather than anything sinister.

“He knows now, if he didn’t before, the gravamen of this sort of behaviour.”

Despite prosecution objections, the judge decided to grant bail once more.

“His explanation perhaps displays an element of casualness about compliance with conditions,” he said.

Imposing the additional constraint of now reporting seven days a week, Sir Declan added: “If there’s any failure on his part to comply with these conditions again the case can be brought back to me and he will stay in custody until his trial.”