Father-of-four Pat McCormick lured to flat then subjected to fatal beating, court hears

William 'Pat' McCormick.

A father-of-four was lured to a flat in Comber then subjected to a fatal beating before his body was placed in a bin which was dumped in a lake, a court heard today.

William 'Pat' McCormick was murdered at the flat on Castle Street on the evening of Thursday May 30, 2019 by a man "twice his size".

After murdering the 55-year-old, David Gill then placed Mr McCormick's remains in a bin.

Gill secured the wheelie bin with straps and weighed it down with concrete blocks before driving it to a relative's house in Ballygowan.

Once at the cottage, the bin containing Mr McCormick's body was dumped in a lake at the rear of the property where it lay for six weeks before being recovered from the water by a diving team on July 9th.

Five people appeared at Belfast Crown Court today on charges arising from Mr McCormick's death.

David Gill, 30, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty last May to murdering Mr Gill and was handed a life sentence.

His fiancee Lesley Ann Dodds - who in May 2019 was having an affair with her co-worker Mr McCormick - is due to be sentenced for manslaughter.

It's the Crown's case that Dodds, who is from Queen Victoria Gardens in Belfast and who turns 25 on Tuesday, lured McCormick to her flat where he was murdered by David Gill.

Three other men each admitted a single charge of with-holding information - namely on a date between May 30 and June 5, 2019 knowing David Gill had committed murder, failed to provide that information to police.

They are David Gill's brother William Gill, 43, from Terrace View in Waringstown, 24-year-old Andrew Leslie from Mourne Crescent in Moneyrea and Jonathon Richard Leslie Montgomerty, 24, from Castle Espie Road in Comber.

All five defendants were informed by Mr Justice Scoffield that they will be sentenced next Thursday (June 22).

Prior to this, the senior judge was told by Crown barrister David McDowell that Mr McCormick was "just short of ten stone and no physical match for the defendant David Gill who is twice his size".

The prosecutor played portions of CCTV to the court which showed Mr McCormick's last movements before he was killed.

The CCTV showed the deceased walking along Castle Street in Comber and walking through an archway which led to Dodds flat.

Mr McDowell read out a series of relevant text messages sent and received in the hours leading to the fatal attack.

The prosecutor said the morning of the murder, Gill sent a message to Mr McCormick's wife telling her her husband was having an affair with his fiancee.

Dodds was in contact with both Gill and Mr McCormick that day, and that evening Gill sent Dodds a text telling her he loved her and asked her not to leave him.

They continued to communicate via text and in the middle of this, Dodds tried to call Mr McCormick. In later messages from her Facebook account, a message said she had left Gill and asked Mr McCormick to come to her flat.

A series of messages followed from Dodds Facebook saying 'are you not coming', 'do you love me' and 'fs I left him for you'.

Mr McDowell said that at this time, Gill had Dodds' phone and also had access to her laptop and Facebook account.

Before calling at the flat, Mr McCormick sent a message to Dodds which said 'you told me you wanted nothing to do with me. I think you're trying to set me up for a kicking, are you'.

At 10.33pm Mr McCormick called the police and reported he was fearful that David Gill was at his girlfriend's flat and was worried he was going to get a beating.

He asked police if they could attend the address and was told that was not something they could do without an incident being reported.

At 10.47pm he was captured on CCTV walking along Castle Street - and as Mr McDowell pointed out "this was the last time he was seen alive by anyone other than his killer".

The court heard Mr McCormick was reported missing by his family in the days after his disappearance and his remains were recovered from the lake six weeks later.

A postmortem was conducted which recorded 24 broken ribs caused by blunt force trauma, fracturing of the nasal bones and bruising to the back and chest.

Dodds and Gill were arrested in July 2019 and during interview, Dodds initially claimed to have no involvement in the murder of Mr McCormick and the disposal of his body.

He was charged with murder, which he denied, and in a second interview on December 2020 he gave an account of what happened.

He said that on May 30, he and Dodds were at his home and that he got her to ask Mr McCormick to go to her flat.

Gill said when Mr McCormick arrived at the flat, he opened the door and Mr McCormick started hitting him.

He said a struggle ensued and he got Mr McCormick in a headlock - then Mr McCormick caught hold of his arm which caused him to fall on the older man.

Gill also claimed Mr McCormick sat up and threatened him and when he left, Mr McCormick was very much alive.

He told police he went to the flat the following morning as he forgot to lock the door and when he found a lifeless Mr McCormick he got a bin, placed the dead man's remains in it then drove to his nephew's house where he dumped the body and bin in a lake.

Mr McDowell told Mr Justice Scoffield: "The prosecution do not accept this account of how Mr McCormick met his death.

"It is apparent that David Gill lay in wait for him and, with Dodds assistance, lured him to the flat where he attacked him.

"The body was disposed of in a degrading manner, causing huge distress to the victim's family, with the intention that the body would never be discovered and he might escape justice."

When she was arrested, Dodds confirmed she and Mr McCormick worked together as carers and that she saw their relationship as platonic.

She also claimed not to have said anything to Mr McCormick to make him go to her flat that evening and denied knowing Gill was going to the property.

A barrister for Gill said his client had a low IQ, learning difficulties and displayed traits of autism.

He added that there was never an intention to kill Mr McCormick and "at the time he left, Mr McCormick was still alive".

Dodds barrister spoke of "extreme childhood trauma" which she has carried into adulthood and said that at the time, Dodds was only 20.

Regarding the three co-accused, it's the Crown's case that all three withheld information.

On May 31, 2019 William Gill received a call from his brother, travelled to Comber that day and spent several hours in David's company before returning home.

William's son Andrew Leslie was 'house-sitting' at the property in Ballygowan where Mr McCormick's body was dumped in the lake and knew what was happening.

Jonathan Montgomery was a friend of David Gill's and Gill called him in the early hours of May 31. His garden was used to burn contents that were removed from the wheelie bin which Mr McCormick was placed into.

 All five will be sentenced for the range of offences next week.

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