Victim killed over affair, court told

The mother of two men accused of taking part in a fatal attack over an extra-marital affair allegedly prevented any attempt to warn the victim, the High Court heard today.

Monday, 18th January 2021, 3:22 pm
Updated Monday, 18th January 2021, 3:29 pm
The area where Steven Peck was found with injuries on a lane near the Garryduff road in Ballymoney Co Antrim.

Prosecutors claimed Steven Peck was lured to the scene of the “brutal” assault in Ballymoney, Co Antrim while Easther McCook stayed with the woman he had been seeing.

Mr Peck, 33, was discovered with a serious head injury near the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney on January 3.

Detectives launched a murder investigation after he died in hospital a week 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 Dervock, are currently charged with his attempted murder.

Police believe Mr Peck had been in a relationship with Austin’s wife, and was attacked when he went to what he thought was a meeting with her.

Easther McCook, also of Urbal Road, faces a charge of assisting offenders by providing a false alibi and interfering with witnesses in connection with the investigation.

During the 46-year-old’s application for bail the court heard claims that she was with her two sons at the Austins’ home on the evening of the assault.

Crown lawyer Adrian Higgins contended: “David Austin, Stephen McCook and Brian McCook left Cherry Gardens and carried out the brutal attack on Steven Peck, who police believe had been lured into the area.”

Easther McCook remained behind with Austin’s wife and kept her mobile phone until they returned, it was alleged.

“The rationale for that was that she (Mrs Austin) could not alert anyone, namely Mr Peck, or call police for help,” Mr Higgins added.

Two days later, it was alleged, Easther McCook went to another address to ask about Mrs Austin’s whereabouts.

According to the prosecution she spoke to someone else at that property “in an attempt to establish whether or not (she) had daubed them in”.

“Police believe it was an attempt by this applicant to exert further pressure on Mrs Austin and to prevent her from speaking with police,” Mr Higgins submitted.

With the victim’s mobile phone yet to be located, the barrister claimed McCook’s release could hinder attempts to find it.

Concerns were also raised about potential interference with significant witnesses described as “extremely vulnerable”.

Mr Higgins added: “The picture of this applicant’s involvement in the planning and aftermath of the assault indicate, police say, that she is only too willing to take action to impede the investigation.”

Defence counsel Dean Mooney confirmed McCook denies being at the Austins home on the day of the assault.

In a written account provided to police she instead stated that she had travelled to Ballycastle.

Mr Mooney also insisted it was complete speculation to claim his client knows anything about Mr Peck’s phone.

“There’s no suggestion that this applicant was present in the company of the deceased from whom that mobile phone is missing,” he said.

Emphasis was also placed on McCook’s role in caring for her husband since a motorcycle accident left him paralysed from the chest down.

But adjourning the application for two weeks, Mr Justice Scoffield said he was not prepared to grant bail at this stage due to the risk of interference with the investigation.

He directed: “I would like a report at that stage on whether any progress has been made on retrieval of the phone, and further information on precisely what arrangements are in place for Mr McCook.”