New witnesses in Moffatt murder case

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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THE man accused of murdering Coleraine pensioner Norman Moffatt allegedly confided that he had “murdered someone in Ireland.”

Mr Moffatt (73) was stabbed as he walked back from getting his morning paper at Railway Road in Coleraine on January 26, 2001.

He died almost two months later in hospital.

The new evidence came to light during a bail hearing for James Alexander McCook at North Antrim Magistrates’ Court on Monday morning.

McCook (43) was arrested in Stockport back in April and charged with Mr Moffatt’s murder. He has been in custody since his arrest.

The court heard that in the last week, two new witnesses from the Stockport area had come forward to police.

The accused, with an address at Stonemill Terrace, Stockport, had previously been charged with Mr Moffatt’s murder, however the charges were withdrawn due to lack of evidence.

Whilst outlining police objections to bail, Detective Constable Steven Johnston said that in the last week two new witnesses in the Stockport area had come forward.

The detective told the court that one of the witnesses had told police that McCook had allegedly admitted stabbing a person in Ireland, the detective added that another witness alleged that McCook had told them that he had murdered someone in Ireland.

The detective told the court that police would be objecting to bail on three grounds - fear that McCook may interfere with witnesses, risk of further offending and fear that he would abscond.

Court heard that back in 2003, McCook had intimidated two witnesses telling one of them that he was “watching him.”

The officer added that a second witness, from the Coleraine area, had reported to police in 2002 that McCook had accosted her in the street allegedly saying: “I did it, but they have nothing on me.”

The officer said that there was a “realistic possibility” that McCook would reoffend given his lengthy record.

He referred to one entry on McCook’s record were he had robbed a 75-year-old woman using a knife.

The officer added that police felt that other witnesses would be more willing to come forward if McCook remained in custody.

A solicitor for McCook asked the officer to confirm that there was no forensic evidence on his client. The officer confirmed this.

The solicitor asked the officer: “The strength of this case is on the reliability of witnesses?”

The officer agreed and said that the strength of the case was in the fact that the witnesses did not know each other.

Appealing to the court to grant bail, the solicitor said: “This charge against my client was previously withdrawn.

“Little has changed. There is no CCTV evidence and no forensic evidence.

“The witnesses are not witnesses of truth, there are credibility issues.

“They have criminal records, records of dishonestly.

“My client has already served a total of 15 months in custody for this.”

Referring to CCTV footage, the solicitor added: “The Metropolitan Police have looked at it and now it is being sent to America in a bid to enhance it, this will count for another delay.”

The solicitor added that an address in Stockport was available, five minutes from a police station, he added that certain bail conditions could be put in place.

District Judge Richard Wilson said he was not “prepared to accede to a bail application”.

Mr Wilson said he shared the concerns expressed by the detective and remanded McCook in custody until August 20.