Northern Ireland

Philip Strickland murder accused refused bail

A farmer accused of killing a man gunned down in his car must remain in custody, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Weatherup refused bail to Jimmy Seales after hearing a claim that he was "malingering" over his injuries in a bid to get out of custody.

Seales, 54, from Ballykeel Road, Hillsborough, is one of four men charged with the murder of Philip Strickland.

The 36-year-old was shot near Comber, Co Down on 11 January.

Seales was himself allegedly kidnapped and subjected to a vicious assault months before the shooting.

His lawyers argue the injuries inflicted in the beating meant he was incapable of firing the shotgun said to have been used in the killing.

Seales reported being attacked with a metal bar and lump of wood, stabbed in the throat and abandoned by the side of a road, the court heard.

The assault, in September 2011, came after he discovered sheds he had leased to associates of Mr Strickland near Hillsborough were being used to grow cannabis, according to his barrister.

Brian McCartney QC told the court: "Since going into custody and being beaten up for doing the right thing his life has been turned into a nightmare."

It was previously claimed that Seales, who denies any involvement in the murder, has access to more than £5m and could flee Northern Ireland if released from custody.

Mr McCartney confirmed his client had around that amount of money for land outside Hillsborough he sold to a business cartel.

It was however invested into a number of properties and agricultural land, the court was told.

The barrister added: "The application (for bail) has been objected to on the basis of rumour and allegations made in a prison cell to wardens and what may be viewed as vindictiveness."

Mr Justice Weatherup noted disputes between the prosecution and defence over almost every aspect of the case.

He stressed that the hearing was not to decide the accused's innocence or guilt.

But the judge pointed out: "What we have, I'm told, is a statement by a prison officer based on information that officer has received from a co-accused that he (Seales) is malingering manipulatively for a purpose designed to get his release on the basis he couldn't have done this and he is too ill to stay in prison."

He ruled: "I'm not satisfied that it is appropriate to release him on bail. I'm going to refuse bail because I feel there are risks that have been outlined."