Murdered man was shot in head as he crouched behind bathroom door

Stephen Carson called 999 from a downstairs bathroom before his murder
Stephen Carson called 999 from a downstairs bathroom before his murder

A man murdered in a house in the Ormeau area of Belfast sustained a fatal shotgun wound to his head while crouched behind a bathroom door, a court has heard.

As the Crown case against three cousins from west Belfast accused of murder was opened at Belfast Crown Court, a prosecution barrister said the motive could be linked back to 2010 when one of the accused was seriously injured in an attack.

Police at the murder scene in February 2016

Police at the murder scene in February 2016

Stephen Carson, 29, was shot in the downstairs bathroom of a house in the Walmer Street area in February 2016.

Also present during the fatal gun attack were his nine-year old son and his partner.

The three cousins – David James Francis Smith, 35, and 39-year old Michael Lawrence Smith from Monagh Drive, and Francis Gerard Patrick Smith, 42, from Glenmurray Court – have all denied murder.

Michael Smyth has also been charged with, and denied, possessing a firearm with intent to commit murder, while Francis Smith also denies possessing both a firearm, and ammunition, in suspicious circumstances.

Prosecuting barrister Neil Connor QC said the fatal incident occurred between 10.30pm and 10.45pm on February 25, 2016.

As Mr Carson was making a cup of tea in the kitchen, and his partner and son were on a sofa in the living room, a number of male intruders entered the property. The woman got off the sofa and held the door to the living room to try and stop them, but the ‘first’ intruder – who the Crown said was Michael Smith – overpowered her and pushed his way in.

At this point, she noticed two other men in the hallway, with a further two men outside the house.

The first intruder tried to hide his face by pulling up his coat collar, telling her to “shut the f*** up” and asking “where’s the tout?”.

Mr Connor said the woman believed one of the men took something from his coat pocket and sprayed it in her face, which caused her eyes to sting.

He said: “The first male kept pushing her down on the sofa every time she tried to get up. He kept asking ‘where is he?’.” When the question was directed at Mr Carson’s son, he said “he’s out there” and pointed towards the kitchen.

This first male then reached into his pocket and pulled out a gun which he pointed at the woman and child, telling the youngster to “shut up and stop squealing”.

One of the other intruders told the first male Mr Carson was on the phone to the PSNI, and the jury was told that during the trial they will hear the 999 call he made from the bathroom, asking for help.

The first male then made his way through the kitchen to the downstairs bathroom. The woman then heard a loud bang, followed immediately by the three intruders leaving.

Both police and the ambulance arrived at around 10.55pm, with Mr Carson pronounced dead at 11.30pm.

It is the Crown’s case that at the time of his death, Mr Carson believed he was under threat from David ‘Dee’ Smith and Michael ‘Spud’ Smith, which had caused him to move from west Belfast to the Ormeau area of the city.

He was suspected of involvement in a 2010 attack on Michael Smith.

During a search of Francis Smith’s flat on February 27 a sawn-off shotgun was found which a forensic expert said was the same weapon used to kill Mr Carson.

At hearing.