Shane Whitla: two men to stand trial at Laganside Crown Court for murder in Lurgan

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Two men accused of the murder of Shane Whitla in Lurgan have had their cases sent to the Crown court.

Standing side by side in the dock of Craigavon Magistrates Court on Friday, Jake O’Brien and Joshua Cotter confirmed they were aware of the charges against them.

Cotter (29), from Madrid Street in Belfast and O’Brien, who is in custody but who has an address at Church Walk in Lurgan, are jointly charged with the murder of Shane Whitla and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life on January 12 last year.

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A third man, 26-year-old Kevin Conway had also been charged alongside them but the charges against him were withdrawn after he was shot dead in west Belfast in January.

Shane Whitla. Picture: family imageShane Whitla. Picture: family image
Shane Whitla. Picture: family image

In court on Friday, a prosecuting lawyer submitted there was a prima facie case against O’Brien and Cotter which was conceded by their respective defence lawyers.

Neither man chose to comment on the charges or to call evidence on their own behalf and returning the case to Laganside Crown Court for trial, District Judge Michael Ranaghan scheduled their arraignment to be heard on September 6.

Remanding O’Brien back into custody and freeing Cotter on continuing bail, the district judge extended legal aid to allow for senior barristers to be instructed.