Northern Ireland

Philip Strickland murder: Four deny killing

Philip Strickland
Image caption Philip Strickland was found shot dead on 11 January

A County Down farmer, his two sons and a fourth man have denied murdering a man shot in the head with a shotgun.

Jimmy Seales, 55, his sons Ian Weir, 27, and Jason Weir, 26, and a fourth man, Stephen McCaughey, 25, all pleaded not guilty to the murder of Philip Strickland on January 11 2012.

Mr Seales, Ballykeel Road, Hillsborough, Ian Weir, Raffrey Road, Crossgar, Jason Weir, Comber Road, Carryduff and Mr McCaughey, Shackleton Walk, Newtownards, denied possessing a shotgun with intent to endanger life.

The 36-year-old victim was shot in the back of the head with a shotgun as he sat in a car off the Ballydrain Road near Comber and previous failed bail hearings have heard allegations that Mr Seales uncovered a cannabis factory in barns he had rented to associates of Mr Strickland.

Alongside the four men in the dock each denying charges of perverting the course of public justice by giving false information to police investigating the movements of the accused at the time of the killing were John Lawlor 44, Blenheim Drive, Newtownards, Lucas North, 45, Ballycreely Road, Comber, Stacey McCaughey, 23, also from Blenheim Drive and Melissa Dickson, 21, whose address has been banned from being reported by court order.

A ninth defendant, Lesley Weir, 21, whose address is also barred from being made public, pleaded not guilty to a charge of withholding information about the murder.

Lawyers for the prosecution and the defendants told Mr Justice Weir there were numerous applications to be made and steps to be taken before the trial, set to last two months, begins.

No date has been set for the trial.

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