Moffatt murder accused to face crown court trial

James Alexander McCook is led away in handcuffs from Ballymena Magistrates Court, after he accused of stabbing Norman Moffatt, 73, as the pensioner walked home after buying his morning newspaper in Coleraine, Co Londonderry, in January 2001. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday April 12, 2012. See PA story ULSTER Moffatt. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
James Alexander McCook is led away in handcuffs from Ballymena Magistrates Court, after he accused of stabbing Norman Moffatt, 73, as the pensioner walked home after buying his morning newspaper in Coleraine, Co Londonderry, in January 2001. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday April 12, 2012. See PA story ULSTER Moffatt. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
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A COURT has ruled that a man charged with the 2001 murder of Coleraine pensioner Norman Moffatt will be sent for trial.

Last week a two-day preliminary enquiry was held at Coleraine Courthouse to determine whether a primae facie case existed against 42-year-old James Alexander McCook.

McCook was charged with Mr Moffatt’s murder last year following his arrest in Stockport.

A father of two, the pensioner died in hospital after he was stabbed as he walked home from buying his morning paper in Railway Road at 6.30am on January 26, 2001

After listening to the evidence of six different witnesses, District Judge Richard Wilson ruled on Tuesday afternoon that there was a case against the defendant.

McCook will be re-arraigned at Antrim Crown Court on Tuesday, February 12 and a trial date fixed.

During the hearing, the court heard that McCook had allegedly confessed to two of the witnesses about Mr Moffatt’s murder.

Two further witnesses, who had travelled from Stockport for the hearing, also told the court that McCook had claimed to them that he had stabbed someone in Ireland.

On the second day of the hearing, McCook’s former girlfriend told the court that she had recognised him from CCTV footage of the 2001 incident taken from Campbell’s Insurance in Coleraine.

Janet Lesley Ann Holley told the court that she was 15 when she began a relationship with McCook, who was then 25. She told the court that the relationship had ended in 1999.

Holleysaid she had been called to the police station on November 15, 2002 to view CCTV footage of the stabbing incident which led to Mr Moffatt’s murder. She said she was able to identify James McCook from the footage.

“I just knew it was him,” she told the court.

When pressed by prosecution counsel Neil Connor on how she knew it was the defendant, Ms Holley told the court, “it’s just the way that he walks.”

The court heard that some time later, Ms Holley had encountered McCook as she was leaving work in Coleraine.

She said: “I was walking home. Jimmy came out of a side street, he grabbed me and said ‘I know it was you, the police have nothing on me’. He said he killed Mr Moffatt.”

Ms Holley said that after the encounter she left Coleraine.

Under cross examination, defence counsel, Neill Rafferty, asked Ms Holley about her time in the police station and the CCTV footage, which was played to the court.

Mr Rafferty asked: “By the time you were shown the video were you not convinced that the police were asking you to view the video in the context of identifying James McCook?”

Ms Holley replied “it wasn’t like that.”

Mr Rafferty asked Ms Holley if she had reported the encounter in Coleraine with McCook to the police. “No” she replied.

Ms Holley was asked why she had not contacted the police to tell them about McCook’s alleged confession. She explained that she had left Coleraine after the incident.

The inquiry also heard from Carol Fleming, who contacted Crimestoppers to identify James McCook, after viewing the Crimewatch reconstruction programme in 2006.

Mrs Fleming told the court that she had an intimate relationship with McCook, however he denied this.

Under cross examination Mrs Fleming told the court that between 2001 and 2006 she had only seen McCook three times - once outside a flat in Ballysally and two other occasions when she had been travelling in a car and on a bus.

Mrs Fleming said that she had recognised McCook on two occasions from the CCTV footage, once in 2001 when it appeared on the news and the second time when the footage was played as part of the Crimewatch reconstruction programme in April 2006.

“I knew it was him by his walk,” Mrs Fleming claimed.

She said she had not contacted police in 2001 but had contacted Crimestoppers anonymously after the reconstruction.

The final witness was John Shandley, who lived in the same block of flats as McCook in Stockport.

Shandley told the court that McCook had claimed that he had stabbed somebody and on another occasion had said “If you knew what I did in Ireland you wouldn’t speak to me.”

Under cross examination Mr Shandley was asked further details about both incidents.

He told the court that he had “no idea” what McCook was referring to and that on both occasion McCook had been “very drunk.”

“Did you just think it was drunken nonsense,?” asked defence counsel Mr Rafferty. “Yes, at the time,” Mr Shandley responded.

After hearing the depositions, District Judge Richard Wilson ruled that the case would go to trial. McCook will be re-arraigned at Antrim Crown Court on February 12.