Son’s evidence puts father at murder scene with shotgun

Police forensic officers examine a murder scene outside Comber, Co Down, where body of Philip Strickland, 36, was found shot dead in a car in 2012.
Police forensic officers examine a murder scene outside Comber, Co Down, where body of Philip Strickland, 36, was found shot dead in a car in 2012.

A Co Down farmer who denies murdering Comber man Philip Strickland was yesterday placed at the murder scene, armed with a shotgun, by his own son.

Ian Weir, 29, was giving evidence for the prosecution against his father Jimmy Seales, who denies involvement in the murder of Mr Strickland.

The 37-year-old farm labourer was found dead in his Citroen Saxo on the Ballydrain Road on the outskirts of Comber on January 11, 2012 after being shot in the face at point-blank range.

Seales, 56, from Ballykeel Road in Hillsborough, denies murdering Mr Strickland but his son told a jury at Belfast Crown Court that his father was present and armed with a shotgun when Mr Strickland was killed.

Mr Weir said both himself, his brother Jason and Stephen Charles McCaughey were in a yard on the Ballyglighorn Road when his father arrived. When asked where Mr Strickland was at this stage, Mr Weir said he was standing beside his Saxo, fighting with his brother Jason.

The prosecution witness – who along with his brother Jason has already pleaded guilty to murder – said Seales was holding a shotgun.

He said: “I heard a loud bang as my father was standing beside the car, and Philip Strickland approached my father.”

Mr Weir said he didn’t know what the bang was but that Mr Strickland collapsed. When asked if he heard anything, Mr Weir replied: “He said ‘I’m sorry Jimmy’, or something.”

It is the Crown’s case that, after being shot in the leg, Mr Strickland was bundled into the boot of his own car and driven a short distance to the Ballydrain Road, where he was shot in the face.

When asked about what happened on the Ballydrain Road, Mr Weir said: “There was a loud bang, the same one that I heard in the yard. My father was standing at the driver’s side of the Citroen Saxo.”

Mr Weir claimed he then walked back to his car and was followed by his father, who got into the car and threw the shotgun at him, which he then pushed onto the floor. He told the jury he left the scene with his father and drove back to their house in Killinchy.

When asked if he talked to his father about what had happened, Mr Weir said: “I think I said, ‘what was all that about?’.”

Mr Weir claimed his father told him that Mr Strickland had beaten him and urinated on him when he was lying on the ground.

Under cross-examination by Brian McCartney QC, the defence barrister for Seales, Mr Weir denied being a “habitual liar”. When it was suggested that he was lying about Seales’ presence, Mr Weir said: “My father was there. You can believe whatever you want but my father was there.”

Mr Weir admitted that, prior to his arrest for the murder, he was a chronic cannabis user.

He also admitted that he lied to police about the murder – but claimed this was to protect his father.

Mr Weir also denied giving evidence against his father to attract a shorter sentence.

Mr McCartney told the court the relationship between father and son deteriorated because of Mr Weir’s chronic cannabis habit, which his client Seales was “very disapproving of”. Mr Weir admitted spending £250 a week on cannabis and revealed he used to smoke up to 14 joints a day, but denied stealing money from his father to fund his drug habit.

Both Seales and 26-year-old Stephen Charles McCaughey from Shackleton Walk in Newtownards deny murder and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

At hearing.