Man charged over loyalist murder granted bail

Colin Horner
Colin Horner

A man charged with the loyalist feud-related murder of a father outside a supermarket has been granted High Court bail.

Joseph Blair, 34, is to be released from custody under conditions which include a ban on contacting two others also accused of killing Colin Horner in Bangor, Co Down last year.

Blair, of Shackelton Walk in Newtownards, was allegedly present in a scout car which tracked the victim’s movements.

Prosecutors claim he was in phone contact with the suspected gunman more than 20 times in the lead up to the shooting.

Mr Horner, originally from Carrickfergus, was shot up to five times in front of his three-year-old son at Sainsbury’s car park on May 28.

Detectives have linked the killing to mounting tensions within the Ulster Defence Association’s South East Antrim brigade.

The victim was said to have relocated to Co Down amid fears for his safety - two months earlier his friend George Gilmore had been shot dead in Carrickfergus.

Blair is among three men charged with Mr Horner’s murder and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Mobile phone analysis and DNA evidence allegedly links him to a Ford Focus car believed to have been used to scout the victim’s movements.

According to the prosecution case he was a passenger in that car, making calls to a suspected gunman travelling in a Ford Mondeo who has yet to be charged.

The killers were said to have escaped in the Mondeo, later found burnt out on Kerrs Road between Bangor and Newtownards.

In an alibi provided after his arrest, Blair claimed was at an address in Newtownards on the day of the murder.

His lawyers mounted a fresh application for bail based on delays in progressing the case.

They argued there is uncertainty around a preliminary enquiry hearing planned for May.

With Blair’s co-accused out on bail, Mr Justice Colton ruled that he should be released from custody too.

The judge ordered him to have no contact with any other defendants or civilian witnesses in the case.

Imposing a curfew and electronic tagging, he also prohibited Blair from leaving Northern Ireland.