As a murder trial being held in Belfast moved into its final stages on Monday, the jury in the case was urged to consider all the evidence arising from the “horrendous” incident.
Stephen Carson (28) died after he was shot in the head in the downstairs bathroom of his Walmer Street home on the evening of February 25th, 2016.
Three cousins from west Belfast - Michael, David and Francis Smith - have been charged with, and deny, offences linked to the shotgun murder.
As a Crown barrister delivered his closing speech to the jury of seven men and five women, the 12 members were told the “brutal murder” was carried out in the presence of Mr Carson’s fiancée and nine-year old son.
Crown counsel Neil Connor QC asked the jury to consider all aspect of the case - including information that the deceased was a drug dealer - and said “it doesn’t matter whether he was a drug dealer or a saint” as their role was to evaluate the evidence against the three accused.
It is the Crown’s case that David (34) and Michael ‘Spud’ Smith (40) were both present at Walmer Street on the evening of the killing, that they worked “in tandem” and that Michael was the gunman who sought out then shot Mr Carson through the bathroom door.
The Crown also believe that following the murder, Francis Smith allowed the murder weapon to be stored in his home, as both a sawn-off shotgun and cartridges were found in a holdall in a wardrobe in his flat the day after the shooting.
In his closing speech, Mr Connor urged the jury members at Belfast Crown Court to take into account what David ‘Dee’ Smith said when he gave evidence from the witness box during the trial. This account of his movements on the night of the murder, the Crown say, was “recently fabricated” and “plotted around the evidence in this case.”
Regarding Michael and Francis Smith - neither of whom answered police questions following their arrest and who chose not to give evidence during the trial - Mr Connor told the jury the duo’s silence was “deafening.”
Pointing out the Crown has accused Michael Smith of being the gunman, Mr Connor said: “We have not heard an ounce of evidence ... to undermine the prosecution’s evidence.” And regarding the find in Francis’s flat, he said there had been no explanation forthcoming as to why a gun and ammunition were found.
Mr Connor cited “bad blood” between the Smiths and Mr Carson as the motive for murder, which he said dated back to a violent altercation in Turf Lodge in 2010 when Michael Smith sustained a serious injury to his arm.
David James Francis and Michael Lawrence Smith, both with addresses in Monagh Drive, have been charged with, and deny, murdering Mr Carson, while the latter has also been charged with, and denies, possessing a firearm with intent to commit murder.
Francis Gerard Patrick Smith (42), from Glenmurray Court in Belfast, faces five charges including assisting offenders by allowing his premises to be used for the storing of firearms and ammunition used in the course of murder, and also possessing both the shotgun and ammunition in suspicious circumstances.
The jury was told that on Tuesday they will hear submissions from the barristers representing both Michael and Francis Smith.
After the Crown addressed the jury today, the barrister acting on behalf of David Smith took to his feet and told the members: “When you look at the evidence in this case, the evidence points towards David Smith being not guilty of the offence of murder.”
Tim Maloney QC said his claim was supported by a lack of evidence linking his client to the weapon the Crown say was used to kill Mr Carson, the mobile phone which the Crown say was operating in the Ormeau area both before and after the shooting, and the car the Crown say was used in the killing and which was attributed to David Smith.
During the trial, the jury heard evidence from Mr Carson’s fiancée, who picked David Smith out in an identification process several days after the killing. Mr Maloney branded her identification as “riddled with inconsistencies”, and said her description changed after she had spoken to Mr Carson’s family.
Mr Maloney branded the other evidence against David Smith as “circumstantial”, and told the jury there was “absolutely no evidential value” such as gunshot residue to link him to the weapon, or ownership of the mobile phone.
Urging the jury to acquit David Smith on the charge of murder, Mr Maloney reminded the members that his client had given evidence and provided an explanation of where he was at the time of the murder - drinking in his flat with friends after getting into a fight earlier that night with a man at a house in Cavendish Street.