Charges against an alleged burglar and co-accused of murder victim Malcolm McKeown were dropped by the prosecution on Monday.
With James Carlisle appearing at Lisburn Magistrates Court via videolink from prison, a prosecuting lawyer told the court the charge against the 38-year-old was being withdrawn.
Carlisle, from the Finulagh Road in Dungannon, had been charged with aggravated burglary of a house on the Beanstown Road in Lisburn on 14 November last year.
The PPS decision brings an end to the case as the court heard that Carlisle’s co-accused McKeown “has since been murdered”.
Previous courts have heard claims how the victim, a man in his 50’s, was alone at home when a van containing “two or three men” pulled to outside his home.
“When he went out to speak to them he was punched in the gut, causing him to be confused and disoriented,” said the officer when Carlisle asked for bail last August, adding that he was then “bundled into the house and cable tied by his hands and feet.”
While he lay face down on the living room floor the gang ransacked his house, demanding to know if he had any money in the house before stealing a box of jewellery, said the officer.
They sped off in the van when the man’s niece and elderly mother returned home, and while the police pursued the van, officers “were unable to catch them”
During the pursuit however, the gang ditched the van and a high vis jacket became snared in a barbed wire fence as the gang made off and the court heard Carlisle was arrested after his DNA was uncovered on the collar of the jacket.
Arrested and interviewed, the officer said Carlisle “denied any involvement” in the aggravated burglary but couldn’t remember where he was that specific day.
The officer told the court Carlisle claimed his DNA could have gotten onto the high vis jacket “at some point as there had been travellers attended near where he lived and he had tried on high vis vests and welly boots”.
McKeown (54), from Meadowvale in Waringstown, had been charged after his DNA was allegedly discovered on the cable ties used to bind the victim.
On August 19, McKeown was shot six times in the head and body at a petrol station in his home town and two men are currently in custody accused of his murder.
In court on Monday, Carlisle’s defence counsel said he was on bail for another matter and District Judge Paul Copeland said given that position, he could see “no reason for his further detention” and ordered that Carlisle should be released.