Natalie McNally: Stephen McCullagh charged with murder of ...
Image source, McNally familyImage caption,
Natalie McNally was expecting a baby boy when she was killed in December
A 32-year-old man charged with murdering a pregnant woman in Lurgan staged an online gaming stream the night she was killed, a court has heard.
Natalie McNally, also 32, was 15 weeks pregnant when she was stabbed on 18 December at her Silverwood Green home.
Stephen McCullagh, of Woodland Gardens in Lisburn, was charged on Thursday.
He did not speak during his appearance via videolink at Lisburn Magistrates' Court.
The court heard that Mr McCullagh, who has a YouTube channel, staged a live broadcast on the night of the murder, with footage appearing to show him playing the video game Grand Theft Auto for six hours.
It was told the defendant was initially arrested in the wake of the murder but then ruled out as a suspect on the basis of the alleged livestream alibi.
Accused 'left phone in family home'
A senior detective told the court that extensive examination of Mr McCullagh's devices by cyber experts indicated the footage was pre-recorded and played out as if it was live.
Image source, PAcemakerImage caption,
The court heard Stephen McCullagh went on to interact with the McNally family after Natalie's death
PSNI Det Ch Insp Neil McGuinness noted that, in the footage, the defendant tells viewers he is unable to interact with them live due to technical issues.
He told the judge that while Mr McCullagh denies involvement in Ms McNally's murder, he conceded in police interview that the purported livestream was pre-recorded by him days earlier.
The detective said Mr McCullagh, who works in the local media industry, then went on to interact with the McNally family in the weeks that followed.
He said the accused left his phone in the home of Ms McNally's parents and recorded 40 minutes of audio.
Det Ch Insp McGuinness said he believed this was Mr McCullagh attempting to determine if the family suspected him of involvement in the murder.
Fell asleep after drinking
The court also heard that police believe they can trace the defendant from the murder scene back to his home in Lisburn.
This is through a combination of CCTV evidence, including on board a bus to Lurgan, and from the account of a taxi driver, who police believe drove him on the final part of his journey home after the murder.
The court also heard that the man police believe is Mr McCullagh is shown wearing a yellow glove underneath a black glove while giving change to the bus driver.
Det Ch Insp McGuinness said the yellow glove would be consistent with a trace of marigold cleaning glove on a stain of Ms McNally's blood at the crime scene.
He added that Mr McCullagh acknowledged he was not livestreaming on the night of the murder, but said he was drinking on his own in his house and fell asleep.
When making a bail application, a defence lawyer challenged the basis on which the police had connected the defendant to the charge.
"Essentially, what the evidence seems to all hang on is that the man did not livestream when he said he livestreamed," he said.
The judge, who said it was one of the most complex cases she had come across, denied the bail application and remanded Mr McCullagh in custody.
He is due to appear in court again on 24 February.