Blood of man ‘murdered over affair’ found on boot of lover’s husband, court is told

A man allegedly beaten to death over an extra-marital affair suffered a broken arm, leg and eye socket, the High Court heard.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 2:32 pm
The area where Steven Peck was discovered

Prosecutors also claimed Steven Peck’s blood was found on the boot of his lover’s husband.

Details emerged as a judge granted bail to two of the men accused of the murder in Ballymoney, Co Antrim.

Mr Peck, 33, was discovered with a serious head injury near the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre on January 3 this year. He died six days later.

Three men, 54-year-old David Austin, of Cherry Gardens in Ballymoney, and brothers Stephen McCook, 28, and Brian McCook, 24, both from Urbal Road in Devock, are charged with his murder.

Police believe Mr Peck was in a relationship with Austin’s wife, and was allegedly lured to the scene of the attack thinking he was going to meet her.

All three men charged with murder were granted magistrates’ bail on Monday.

But the prosecution appealed the decision to release Austin and Stephen McCook, citing the risk of interference with the investigation.

It was contended that they played a more central role in the alleged attack.

Crown lawyer Robin Steer said a witness told police he saw two men carrying out the assault at playing fields close to the leisure centre.

He then discovered Mr Peck lying on the ground with a severe head injury, his face covered in blood and making a “snoring sound”.

The two suspected assailants were seen walking away, according to the witness, joined by a third man in front.

Mr Peck was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for treatment to a severe head injury, but passed away on January 9.

“He had other injuries including a broken leg, a broken eye socket, a broken arm and bruising to the ribs,” the prosecutor disclosed.

The court also heard David Austin’s wife, Helen, approached PSNI officers at the crime scene in the early hours of January 4.

“She told police that she believed her husband was involved in the attack,” Mr Steer said.

“She told police she had been having a relationship with the victim and that her husband had come home with blood on his hands which he had washed off.”

Following his arrest David Austin provided a statement denying any involvement in the attack.

However, the prosecution contended that he is forensically linked.

“Blood has been found on his brown boots, and that has been linked to the blood of the deceased,” Mr Steer said.

Stephen McCook also denied being part of the assault, claiming he spent the night at home, and only went out to get cigarettes hours later.

It was claimed that CCTV evidence shows him with David Austin at a garage in Coleraine hours after the incident.

Defence barrister Francis Rafferty, representing Austin, acknowledged the prima facie case against his client but insisted he poses no risk of interference with the investigation.

Counsel for Stephen McCook argued that the CCTV footage from hours after the alleged assault corroborates his account to police.

Following submissions Mr Justice Rooney ruled that both men should be granted bail on strict conditions to live at addresses outside Ballymoney.

The terms included a ban on any communication with Austin’s wife.

The judge warned: “If there’s any evidence brought to my attention that any contact has been made with Crown witnesses that information will be brought to my attention and looked at particularly seriously.”