Two Lisburn men were remanded into custody on Thursday accused of a shotgun murder.
In addition to being jointly charged with the murder of 50-year-old Paul Smyth on 19 June, 32-year-old James Holmes from Lawnmount Crescent, Lisburn and James McVeigh (29) from Ward Avenue, Lisburn, were also charged with attempting to murder a man and woman on 23 June and possessing a shotgun and ammunition with intent to endanger life.
Standing handcuffed in the dock of Lisburn Magistrates Court, the alleged killers confirmed they understood the charges against them while a Detective Sergeant gave evidence that she believed she could connect each man to the charges.
McVeigh’s defence solicitor Joe Magee told the court he was not applying for bail but Patrick Madden, acting for Holmes, did lodge an appeal for bail.
During that unsuccessful application, McVeigh continually yawned, winked at Mr Smyth’s grieving relatives in the public gallery and spoke to his co-accused, leading District Judge Rosie Watters to first ask him to be quiet and then to have the prison staff remove him to the cells.
As McVeigh was taken away, there were shouts of “scumbag, scum bag,” from the gallery.
The DS told the judge she had “strong objections” to Holmes being freed on bail as the shotgun allegedly used in both attacks “has not yet been recovered,” witnesses who have statements “are in fear of repercussions” and the investigation team are hunting a third suspect.
She recounted how a friend of Mr Smyth was concerned for him as she “had not seen him for a few days” so called to his home at Coulson Avenue in Lisburn in Friday night.
Finding his front door closed but unlocked, the woman went inside to find Mr Smyth’s body “slumped on the sofa, covered in blood”.
A post mortem examination revealed he had died from a shotgun wound to the chest, said the detective, adding that shotgun wadding was recovered from the fatal wound.
She said that from police investigations into Mr Smyth’s phone and laptop, police believe he was murdered between 2 and 3am on Wednesday morning.
The double attempted murder related to an incident at a house in Mill Street in the city on June 23, she told the court.
The DS outlined how the householder had been woken by his dog barking and looked outside to see a masked man who asked him about a named male who once lived in the property.
It was during that exchange, said the detective, that a second male carrying a single barrelled shotgun “came around the side of the house” and fired a shot through the window, smashing it.
The female victim told police that despite the fact the men were masked, she named Holmes and McVeigh as the men who attacked her home.
She claimed she recognised Holmes by his build, accent and gait and further claimed McVeigh was with him because of the height difference and she had seen both men together a few hours earlier.
The officer revealed that forensic examination of the shotgun wadding recovered from Mr Smyth’s chest forensically matched wadding found at the Mill Street incident “as coming from the same gun.”
She further claimed that CCTV footage placed the defendants in and around both scenes at the time of the respective incidents.
Asked by Judge Watters what the police concerns were about Holmes being freed on bail, the Detective Sergeant recounted that “despite numerous searches” for the murder weapon, the shotgun has not been found and police are hunting a third suspect in the case so if freed, Holmes could impede the investigation.
She added that “both men are known and have reputations for violence” so witnesses who had come forward “have all expressed concerns that they’re in fear” so a remand to custody would “protect witnesses” and she also had concerns about him committing further offences as he has 33 precious convictions.
During cross examination from Mr Madden, the officer conceded there was no forensic evidence to link Holmes to either scene but she stressed there was none “at this stage”.
The solicitor submitted the case against Holmes “is a very weak circumstantial case” and that with a proposed bail address in Co Down, that Holmes could be freed
Judge Watters disagreed however, telling the lawyer she was concerned about the potential to impede the murder investigation and the fact that the gun has not been recovered by police.
“These are two serious incidents where members of the public, and one member of the public is deceased as a result, and two others....could easily have been killed or seriously injured,” said the judge.
Refusing to free Holmes, the judge told the court: “I’m really concerned about the gun and its availability and the impeding of the investigation in relation to the other suspect and the risk of witness interference - I can easily understand why they’re afraid.”
The alleged killers will appear again via videolink on July 15.