Man shot six times at close range, court hears

Malcolm McKeown
Malcolm McKeown was shot dead outside a petrol station in 2019 [BBC]

A man who was shot dead outside a petrol station in Waringstown, County Down, was struck by at least six bullets whilst he sat in his BMW, Belfast Crown Court has heard.

Malcolm McKeown was shot six times at close range in the head and body in August 2019.

The court heard a forensic expert who examined the scene after the murder concluded that at least 16 cartridges were fired from a minimum of two guns.

The four accused are 29-year-olds Jake O'Brien from Rectory Road in Lurgan and Andrew Thomas Kenneth Martin from Bridge Street in Banbridge, 35-year-old Stevie Lee Watson, from Princeton Avenue in Lurgan and 34-year old Simon Smyth from Hazelgrove Avenue in Lurgan.

All four have denied murdering 54-year-old Mr McKeown and of possessing firearms and ammunition, two firearms, and assorted bullets and cartridges, with intent to endanger life on the same date.

'Shot in the past'

Ciaran Murphy KC told the court Mr McKeown was released from custody 12 days before his murder.

"Mr McKeown would, considering his background, have been wary of being attacked by other criminals," he said.

"He had been shot and seriously wounded in the past and he had received warnings from police about being under threat."

Forensic officer at Malcolm McKeown shooting scene
Forensic officers examined the scene after the shooting [Pacemaker]

The court heard Mr McKeown was last seen alive at 19:19 BST on 19 August, when he walked out of Dewart's garage and got into his BMW, which was parked at the rear of the petrol station.

Less than a minute later, a navy Volkswagen Passat was seen speeding away from the scene.

It was later found burned out in Lurgan.

A sales assistant in the garage heard several loud bangs and assumed it was either fireworks or bangers, and when police arrived at the scene shortly after 21:00, Mr McKeown was found slumped over the driver's seat of the BMW.

A post mortem examination found death was caused by bullet wounds to the head and body and that Mr McKeown has been "struck by at least six bullets".

After the murder, items recovered from the burned-out Passat were forensically examined along with cartridges found beside Mr McKeown's car.

The court heard Mr O'Brien's DNA was found on a black disposal glove and a boiler suit found near the Passat, and he was also identified as one of two men running into a cul-de-sac close to where the Passat was dumped and set on fire.

Mr Martin was identified as the second man in the footage.

'Preparations for the killing'

The court heard that in the days before the murder, Mr Martin had conducted searches about Mr McKeown on his phone and searched "the act of killing aftermath".

"This material evidences a distinct interest in Mr McKeown in the period before his death and is consistent with preparations for the killing," the prosecution barrister said

He said it was the Crown's case that all four accused "had a role to play".

He said when all the evidence had been presented, it would indicate "all the accused were jointly responsible for the murder of Malcolm McKeown".

The trial continues.