A man has gone on trial accused of “executing’’ Barry McCroy with a shotgun as he lay in bed at a flat in Derry city centre.
60-year-old Kieran McLaughlin of Elaghmore Park, Galliagh, denies murdering Mr McCrory on October 10, 2013 at a block of flats in Shipquay Street where he was in bed with his partner.
He further denies possessing a sawn-off, 12 bore double barrelled shotgun, shotgun cartridges, a Mauser self-pistol and ammunition with intent to endager life and possessing a imitation Walther pistol between October 9 and October 17, 2013.
However, McLaughlin had pleaded guilty last Friday to possessing the shotgun, pistol and ammunition in suspicious circumstances on the same dates.
At Belfast Crown Court , prosecution cousel Ciaran Murphy QC told Mr Justice Horner, who was sitting alone in the non-jury Diplock trial, that Mr McCrory was at his one-bedroomed flat at 4 Shiquay Street with his partner on the morning of October 10, 2013.
He said that just before 10.30 am, CCTV cameras captured a figure walking up Shipquay Street and went to the door of No 7 and pressed the intercom buzzer to gain access.
The judge watched the footage and also a video recording of a man entering the premises carrying a ruck sack and wearing a beany hat who “ascended the flight of stairs’’ to flat No 7.
The footage showed a man removing a rucksack, putting on a pair of black gloves, knocking on the flat six times, before the door opens and he enters.
Less than a minute later, the man leaves the flat and heads down the stairs and back out onto Shipquay Street.
The court was told that at 10.43 am police received a 999 call about a shooting at the flat and that “a male had entered the flat wearing a black bomber jacket, gloves, a black beany hat, was wearing safety goggles and had shot dead Barry McCrory’’.
The victim’s partner later told police that when she answered the door, a male “disguised with large goggles’’ entered the flat and forced her to lie down on the floor in the living room’’.
“He left her in the living room. She heard him shouting ‘drug dealing scumbag’ and then she heard four loud bangs coming from the living room. The male leaves the flat a short time later,’’ said Mr Murphy QC.
“Ultimately, she contacted a neighbour who found Barry McCrory with a number of fatal gunshot wounds lying face down on the bed.’’
The court heard a post mortem examination revealed that Mr McCrory sustained four shotgun wounds from a range of two metres or less - two to the back of the head, one to the upper chest and one to the lower back.
The deputy state pathologist said the two gunshot wounds to the head caused extensive fractures to the skull and severe damage to the brain, adding that death would have been “rapid’’.
The court heard that a man matching McLaughlin’s description was captured on CCTV getting into a taxi in the city centre a short time after the murder.
The taxi driver told police that he picked up a man who said he was going to attend a funeral at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Galliagh.
“The driver spoke to this person and he recognised his voice. It was a Derry accent. He said he had worked him two years previously. He said to his passenger: ‘Did you work in Rosemount Taxis?’ He remembered his name as ‘Kevin’. He said McLaughlin denied it was him saying ‘No. No’.’’
The taxi driver told police his passenger was wearing a pair of clear safety glasses, like workmen glasses, a blue and grey scarf and a dark coat. He added that he was also wearing blue/grey gloves and a long back bag which had a black mesh pocket to carry a water bottle in.
The court heard that when the taxi arrived at St Joseph’s Church, the driver noticed there was no funeral taking place and ‘Kevin’ told him to drive round to the back of the church where he got out.
Mr Murphy said the area around the flat in Shipquay Street was cordoned off for a detailed forensic examination and a hunt was launched for the suspect who had been identified by police as Kieran McLaughlin but he was not apprehended.
Mr Justice Horner heard that police carried out a search of McLaughlin’s home at Elaghmore Park the day after the shooting and officers found a balaclava and a number of pairs of gloves in a spare room.
Inside the meter box in the hallway, officers also found black woollen gloves and two pairs of safety glasses.
The court heard that during further inquiries on Tuesday, October 15, police established that keys to a Honda Civic car had been taken and the car was missing from outside the owner’s home in Ederowen Park in Galliagh.
The following day, around 12.40 am policer officers on duty in the Springtown Industrial estate observed a silver Volkswagen Passat driving with no lights on which was “travelling at speed’’ and at one point mounted a grass verge.
After initially losing the car, police later tracked the Passat to Ederowen Park around 5 am which was found to have damage to front of the vehicle and grass in the wheel arches.
“It is reasonable to infer that the defendant was using that vehicle,’’ said Mr Murphy , adding the the stolen Honda Civic was located at Moss Park in Galliagh.
“This vehicle contained firearms to which the defendant has now pleaded to their possession. Army Technical Officers were tasked who examined the Honda Civic and found in the footwell of the front passenger seat a sawn-off shotgun. A blue ruck sack was also found along with a Mauser pistol and six shotgun cartridges.
“An aerial platform being used by police during the search with heat seaking equipment and observed and unusual heat source lying under a vehicle parked in the driveway of a house at Fern Park.
“The aerial platform directed officers to the scene who contained the address. They could see see the feet of a person lying under the vehicle. Police announced they were armed officers but there was no response from the person under the vehicle.
“Specialist police firearm officers were tasked to the scene. At 2.55 am the person was identified as the defendant Kieran McLaughlin. At 3 am he was arrested for the murder of Barry McCrory and in reply he said: ‘I want to speak to my solicitor’.’’
Mr Murphy QC said that in McLaughlin’s pocket of his outer jacket, police found a yellow handled knife, a red pocekt knife, six lighters and a set of keys attached to a pair of sunglasses which belonged to the stolen Honda Civic car.
Also found on McLaughlin, the court heard, was a money bag containing a quantity of cash in new notes and a small amount of change. “He also had newspaper clippings about the murder of Barry McCrory and the search for himself,’’ said the prosecuting QC.
The judge was told that on May 6, 2014, detectives went to the Lidl store on Derry’s Buncrana Road and bought a light blue rucksack. The code on the purchased receipt matched the code on a receipt dated July 27, 2013 which was found in the defendant’s home for the ruck sack police had seized.
“There is also CCTV footage of the defendant in the Lidl store,’’ explained Mr Murphy
Forensic scientists examined the seized blue ruck sack and found McLaughlin’s DNA on the strap which Mr Murphy said was a “one in a billion chance’’ that it was not related to the defendant.
He added that items of McLaughlin’s clothing were also examined and were found to contain firearm residue along with his DNA.
The court heard that when interviewed, McLaughlin denied involvement in the murder of Barry McCrory and denied he was the man on CCTV seen entering and leaving 4 Shipquay Street.
Asked by detectives why he was carrying a firearm, McLaughlin replied: “I thought I was going to be killed by the sAs. I am a dissident and I am someone that they would want to kill. I had a gun to protect myself.’’
“It is our case that the defendant murdered Mr McCrory, that he executed him and had possession of the weapon used in relation the murder of Mr McCrory, before and at the time of the murder,’’ added the prosecution QC.
The trial continues.