Murder accused farmer had ‘no gripe’ with victim

Philip Strickland who was found shot dead in a car outside Comber, Co Down.
Philip Strickland who was found shot dead in a car outside Comber, Co Down.

A 56-year-old farmer accused of murdering Comber man Philip Strickland yesterday told a jury he had “no gripe” with the victim and didn’t kill him.

Mr Strickland, 37, died on the outskirts of Comber on January 11, 2012 after being shot in the leg, then in the face at point blank range.

Standing trial at Belfast Crown Court for his murder are 56-year-old Jimmy Seales from Ballykeel Road in Hillsborough and 26-year-old Stephen Charles McCaughey from Shackleton Walk in Newtownards. They both deny murder and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Giving evidence yesterday, Mr Seales became emotional and broke down several times as he recalled being beaten, urinated and spat on and left for dead in a cemetery in Ballygowan four months prior to the murder.

Mr Seales told the court he received the beating in September 2011 because he had previously asked a local man to remove cannabis that he discovered was being grown in a shed on land he owned.

Following the assault, graffiti began to appear in Comber which said ‘Jimmy Seales, PSNI tout’. The graffiti was attributed to Mr Strickland.

When asked by a defence lawyer about Mr Strickland, Mr Seales said: “I have known Philip from he was a child.” When the lawyer said: “He was suspected of being responsible for the graffiti and Facebook comments. As a result of this, it has been suggested you wanted revenge against him.” Mr Seales replied: “No, that’s not true.” At hearing.