Northern Ireland

Stephen Carson case `not like Oscar Pistorious murder'

Stephen Carson was shot dead in south Belfast in 2016
Stephen Carson was shot dead in south Belfast in 2016

A JURY has been told the death of a Belfast man killed by a shot fired through a bathroom door was not the same as the murder committed by disgraced paralympian Oscar Pistorius.

Stephen Carson (28) was struck in the head by a cartridge fired by a gunman who targeted him in his Walmer Street home in the Ormeau area in February 2016.

Three cousins from west Belfast - Michael, David and Francis Smith - deny the charges connected to his death.

Frank O'Donoghue QC, representing Michael 'Spud' Smith (40), accused of being the gunman, spoke of the differences between the deaths of Mr Carson and Reeva Steenkamp, who Pistorius shot through a locked bathroom door on Valentine's Day 2013.

Oscar Pistorius was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
Oscar Pistorius was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

Mr O'Donoghue said the former athlete "fired a hail of shots, four or five, through the cubicle of a toilet where his girlfriend was. He kept firing until she screamed 'no more'.

"Faced with that sort of evidence, you might well think a jury is satisfied that an intention was an intention to kill or cause serious harm to her."

The death of Mr Carson, the barrister told the jury "was not a case where there was evidence of screaming", but "where a gunman fired a single shot through a closed door".

Mr O'Donoghue suggesting the gunman may have wanted to threaten or frighten Mr Carson.

He said the victim "lived in a very shady world", including a CIRA threat, a recent prison release, dealing drugs and Eastern European criminal associates.

The barrister said the gunman "fired blindly" and the shot "may have deflected or ricocheted and stuck Mr Carson" in an enclosed, small space.

Michael Smith and his cousin David 'Dee' Smith (34), both with addresses in Monagh Drive, have each been charged with murdering Mr Carson.

Michael Smith has also been charged with possessing a firearm with intent to commit murder.

During the month-long trial, the court heard Mr Carson's fiancée, who was at home with his nine-year-old son, identified Michael Smith as the gunman.

Read more:

  • Mother of murder victim Stephen Carson recalls phone call telling her he was dead
  • Stephen Carson shot 'from range of less than two metres'
  • Court hears son of Stephen Carson cried when he found his murdered dad

Mr O'Donoghue said that identification evidence was "hopelessly compromised and completely contaminated", saying she wanted to "shop the Smiths".

The barrister claimed she could not give an initial description of the gunman to police, but several days later picked Michael Smith out from an ID parade - after speaking to Mr Carson's mother, who blamed the cousins for the murder.

Acknowledging it had been a "deeply traumatic incident", Mr O'Donoghue suggested "she was not identifying the gunman, she was identifying the person she knew to be Michael Smith."

Mr O'Donoghue cited lack of forensic evidence linking Michael Smith to the house at Walmer Street, or the sawn-off shotgun and cartridges - which the Crown say was the murder weapon - found in his cousin Francis Smith's flat 25 hours after the killing.

Michael Smith was in the flat when the gun was recovered.

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 possessing the shotgun and ammunition in suspicious circumstances.

Eilis McDermott QC branded the evidence against him "very limited", telling the jury there was "no evidence as to how this holdall or its contents got there... who brought the shotgun and cartridges to Francis Smith's flat... when they were brought into this flat... whether Francis Smith was in his flat when they were brought in... when Michael Smith arrived at the flat... (or) who else may have been in the flat all of that day".

There was "no fingerprint evidence or DNA evidence whatsoever".

At hearing