Man admits Strickland murder but not fatal shot

Police forensic officers examine the murder scene outside Comber.
Police forensic officers examine the murder scene outside Comber.

A Co Down man who has already pleaded guilty to murdering farm labourer Philip Strickland yesterday denied firing the fatal shot which killed the farm labourer.

Ian Weir is one of four men charged with murdering Mr Strickland, 37, who was shot in the face on the outskirts of Comber on January 11, 2012.

Ian Weir and his brother Jason have already pleaded guilty to murder, while two other men – Jimmy Seales, 56, from Ballykeel Road in Hillsborough, and 26-year old Stephen Charles McCaughey, from Shackleton Walk in Newtownards, deny the charge.

The jury at Belfast Crown Court has already heard that Mr Strickland was shot in the leg at a yard on the Ballyglighorn Road before being bundled into the boot of his own car and driven a short distance to the Ballydrain Road, where he was shot in the face.

During a second day in the witness box, Ian Weir said that after Mr Strickland was shot in the leg and before he was shot in the face, it was his opinion that McCaughey left the scene.

The jury heard that when queried about whether he had been asked by McCaughey to minimise his role in the incident, Ian Weir replied: “Why would I minimise his role in it? Stephen did nothing. Why would Stephen ask me to do that when he had nothing to do with it?”

As Ian Weir was being cross-examined by Martin O’Rourke QC – the barrister acting on behalf of McCaughey – he said that as far as he was concerned, McCaughey left the scene after the first shot was fired.

When Mr O’Rourke suggested to Ian Weir that it was in fact he who fired the fatal shot, Ian Weir replied: “I did not shoot Philip Strickland.”

Mr O’Rourke said his client McCaughey told police, ‘I would like to say Jimmy pulled the trigger, but it was Ian.’

Ian Weir replied: “If I shot Philip Strickland...I would have manned up in the police station and said it.”

The trial continues.