Speaking outside Laganside Courthouse after Stephen McCaughey was found guilty, Philip Strickland’s twin brother Andrew said: “On behalf of my family, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the PSNI and members of the legal team for their hard work in bringing to justice those responsible for Philip’s murder.”
The grieving brother continued: “It has been a diffcult time for us, however we are happy with today’s outcome and appreciate the support of everyone over these last two diffcult years.”
Also speaking after the verdict was Chief Inspector Karen Baxter, who led the police investigation into what she described as “a brutal and cowardly death”.
Standing by Andrew’s side, the senior police officer said she hoped the convictions would provide “some degree of comfort and sense of justice for Philip’s family, after the pain they have suffered”.
She described the murdered 37-year victim as being “a hard worker who made the best of his skills as a farm labourer, working long hours in all weathers to earn his living.
“Socially, he enjoyed life and liked a laugh,” said the chief inspector, who added, however: “Tragically, sometimes Philip didn’t fully understand the consequences of his words or actions and a dispute with the Seales family, much of it being played out on social media, sadly resulted in his murder.”
Chief Inspector Baxter said that “Philip suffered a brutal and cowardly death”, after he had gone to a friend’s yard and unexpectedly met those who were later to be convicted of his murder.
“He was the victim of an assault, he was shot and then shot again”, and despite what the chief inspector described as “the valiant efforts” from people at the scene, he died on a quiet country road.
She added that this type of murder, while rarely occurring nowadays, caused fear within the local Comber community. But despite that fear, “many people worked with us to provide information and give evidence”.
The senior officer said she would “like to acknowledge that assistance”, while at the same time she expressed her sorrow at “a small group of individuals who initially did not co-operate and have found themselves before the court, convicted of offences relating to Philip’s murder”.
In conclusion, Chief Inspector Baxter said that “this has been a long and difficult process, and while today’s convictions will never bring Philip back, we hope it will provide a small degree of closure for his family.”