Three defendants accused of the murder in Ballymoney of Steven Peck, have all been granted bail at Coleraine Magistrates’ Court, sitting at Ballymena, on Monday, March 1.
David Austin (54), Cherry Drive in Ballymoney, and brothers Stephen (28) and Brian McCook (24), both from the Urbal Road in Dervock, are all accused of murder, with Brian McCook charged with two additional counts of threats to kill.
In the case of Brian McCook police objected to the bail application before the court on the grounds that the defendant could interfere with two witnesses that the threats to kill charges relate to, with police telling the court that both are vulnerable adults who have taken the threats against them seriously.
The court heard that one of the witnesses is so in fear of their life going as far to state to police, “Brian would kill you if you looked at him wrong”.
Police also told the Court of their concerned that given the family connection between the defendant and witnesses – full cousins – that this knowledge could be used to “manipulate the witnesses through fear and other means”.
Defence Barrister Mr Michael Smyth established from the Police that all witness statements had now been taken and that the witnesses could be protected by way of bail conditions rather than the continued remand of his client.
The Court heard that an address has now been made available that was approved by police and if applicable would allow the defendant and his co-accused brother Stephen McCook to reside together in a bubble – in line with current COVID restrictions – should they both be granted bail.
Similarly, in the case of brother Stephen McCook, who was represented in Court by Defence Barrister Mr Alan Stewart, the police objected to the defendants’ bail application, again citing the possibility of interference of witnesses in the case
Granting bail to the defendants, District Judge Peter King placed the following conditions on both brothers:
- Both defendants can reside together in a bubble as per COVID regulations at an address approved by police, curfewed between the hours of 8 pm-8 am, electronically tagged and must present themselves to the door if required to do so by police;
- To have no contact directly or indirectly or by any third party, with injured parties or witnesses in the case;
- They are excluded from both the Causeway Coast & Glens and Mid & East Antrim Council areas;
- Must report to the Strand Road on a Monday, Wednesday and Saturday between the hours of 1-2 pm;
- Own bail of £500.
In the case of the remaining defendant still in custody, David Austin, Police indicated to the court that they weren’t aware of any bail application for the defendant nor had they been given sight of an appropriate bail address.
Defence Barrister Mr Francis Rafferty informed the court that the application for bail was on the basis of an address being supplied and suitable to the police.
In objecting to the defendants’ bail application, similar to his co-accused, the Police were concerned with the interference of witnesses – in particular – the defendants’ wife as police believe that the “catalyst” for the incident was the defendant becoming aware of a relationship between his wife and the victim Steven Peck.
Police told the court that the defendant had significant control over his wife and that there is concern at the possibility of her withdrawing co-operation in the case.
Judge King responded telling the court, “Now that there is an ABE (Achieving Best Evidence) interview, even if the (defendants’ wife) were to withdraw her co-operation, there are mechanisms for the evidence to be put before the court and without challenge if she wasn’t to attend’.
Bail was again granted by Judge King under the following conditions:
- The defendant must reside at an address approved by police and no other, curfewed between the hours of 8 pm-8 am, electronically tagged and must present themselves to the door if required to do so by police;
- To have no contact directly or indirectly or by any third party, with any injured parties or witnesses in the case, in particular, his wife;
- He is excluded from both the Causeway Coast & Glens and Mid & East Antrim Council areas;
- Must report to the nearest Police station on a Monday, Wednesday and Saturday between the hours of 1-2 pm;
- Own bail of £500.
The three defendants will have their case listed again, adjourned to Coleraine Magistrates’ Court on March 29.
Note: The other two defendants Easther McCook (46), Urbal Road in Dervock who is charged with assisting offenders and her daughter Lisa Gemmell (29), Union Street who is charged with perverting the course of justice, both previously were released on High Court bail.