Portadown man Connor McNeill freed on bail after admitting shooting neighbour Stephen Barriskill

A Co. Armagh man, accused of murder, admitted shooting his neighbour twice in the chest with his shotgun, a court heard today (Friday).

Craigavon Magistrates Court heard that having shot and killed Stephen Barriskill on 26 October, 53-year-old Connor Lawrence McNeill handed himself in to police the following day and admitted killing his neighbour with his ‘legally held shotgun’.

McNeill, from Whitesides Hill in Portadown, appeared at court by videolink from prison for the purpose of a bail application.

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Giving evidence to the court, Detective Sergeant Campbell said police were opposed to McNeill being freed.

Opening the alleged facts of case for the first time, the officer told the court that sometime after 10pm on 26 October, ‘Mr McNeill entered the home of Mr Barriskill….and at that point had with him his legally held, loaded shotgun’.

DS Campbell said: “He approached Mr Barriskill about matters that had allegedly occurred previous to these events and during that conversation, Mr McNeill shot him twice in the chest with the shotgun.”

DS Campbell added that ‘for reasons only he will know’, McNeill went to a friend’s house before he went home.

The following day, McNeill handed himself in to Lurgan police station ‘and told police what had occurred the night before’, said the detective.

He added that over the course of five interviews, McNeill ‘accepted that he had entered his home and should not have been there, accepted he had a loaded firearm and accepts that he shot Mr Barriskill twice in the chest’.

DS Campbell described how the men ‘had been friends for many years, had lived relatively close to each other in the same lane and, at some point in the last number of months, they have had a falling out for reasons I’m sure Mr McNeill will explain at a later date’.

He said while McNeill had surrendered himself ‘prior to police being aware’ of the killing, ‘we do oppose bail’ on the grounds that he had gone to the victims house, uninvited and with a loaded gun and had left a ‘grieving family in the middle of this’.

The officer suggested that facing a lengthy sentence if convicted, ‘there’s a potential that he will fail to surrender’ and, further, that McNeill ‘could potentially interfere with witnesses’ and might have access to ‘cash and property to facilitate flight from jurisdiction’.

District Judge Bernie Kelly told DS Campbell however McNeill ‘has admitted, effectively, the offences’ and given those admissions, ‘it’s highly unlikely he can reverse what he has said’ so witness interference did not arise.

“In terms of him fleeing, I would need….some factual basis for me to be satisfied there’s a real risk of him leaving,” said DJ Kelly.

The judge highlighted that McNeill had handed himself in before the police knew anything about it, made admissions during interviews, ‘co-operated fully with the process,’ had only one driving matter 14 years ago while working as a self-employed welder.

“So in short he has what one would consider otherwise than this charge and very unfortunate incident, he has led a model life up to now,” said the judge.

Defence counsel Joel Lindsay confirmed that McNeill told police ‘listen, there was a row over a number of years, he said he was living like a rat, he had made threats etc etc’ and suggested that he could live with his sister outside of Portadown.

Freeing McNeill on his own bail of £500 with a surety in the same amount, DJ Kelly ordered McNeill to abide by a curfew, to report to police three times a week and imposed a prohibition on alcohol.

She also ordered McNeill to surrender his firearms certificate within 24 hours of being released from prison and adjourned the case to 17 December.

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