'Violent Night' | 

Natalie McNally murder accused left ‘hidden messages’ in staged livestream

In the YouTube stream titled ‘Violent Night’, McCullagh said: “abso-f******-notly followed by abso-f******-Natalie” with a smirk on his face

Murder victim Natalie and suspect Stephen McCullagh

Belfast Telegraph staff reporterBelfast Telegraph

Stephen McCullagh allegedly left “hidden messages” about Natalie McNally’s death in a staged gaming livestream, a court has heard.

Details of the purported ‘live’ YouTube session — actually recorded several nights earlier but broadcast on the night of Ms McNally’s death — were outlined during a High Court bail application.

Prosecution barrister Natalie Pinkerton said it amounted to a “six-hour faked alibi”.

She alleged it contained so-called ‘Easter eggs’ which referenced Ms McNally’s death.

The livestream involved a six-hour session of McCullagh playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The prosecution say he deliberately chose the game.

“That specific game is one of only two that allows a single player format, that would have allowed him to play the game alone rather than with another player,” Ms Pinkerton contended.

“It is notable that Mr McCullagh decided to fake stream a video that he specifically named Violent Night on what was ultimately an extremely violent night.”

The court was told most of the game is about advancing to the next mission with side missions that a player can partake in.

During the six-hour recording, McCullagh takes a break every hour or so.

The recording was made on December 14 into the early hours of the 15th.

Submissions by McCullough say he had promised the livestream and had wanted to do it for a while.

At 4pm on the day of Ms McNally’s death he announced on social media that he was live streaming that night.

McCullagh said that if Ms McNally believed he was performing live she would not text him or expect a reply to text messages.

“The prosecution asks why would Mr McCullagh, if he was not livestreaming, not want his girlfriend to text him. Why did he not want to reply to her if there were no issues in their relationship,” she queried.

The court was told McCullagh has 35,000 followers on YouTube and had not livestreamed for a year until December 2022.

“It was a pre-recorded alibi for the time Ms McNally was murdered,” contended Ms Pinkerton.

The prosecution barrister added that the recording shows the “cold and clinical way” that McCullough behaved in planning the alleged crime.

“The devil is in the detail … the detail of this video is chilling,” she states.

Ms Pinkerton said that at the time neighbours heard a woman scream, McCullagh was playing a side mission where he killed a woman and made it look like an accident.

“Three hours into the video, roughly 9pm when neighbours heard a scream, Mr McCullagh chose to undertake the side mission,” she said.

On the stream McCullagh, is heard saying “I need to kill this bitch, I need to take her down”. And shortly after, he is heard saying “time is of the essence I nearly got the bitch”, Ms Pinkerton said.

McCullagh said there was no relevance to this and the comments were a “tragic coincidence”.

It took McCullagh two tries to complete the mission on the game. When he does, Ms Pinkerton continued, he says “one more head-on hit and that would have been her, lovely stuff — that’s what we like to see”.

During play the court heard that McCullagh said: “That’s physics, that’s what would happen in the real world ... abso-f******-notly followed by abso-f******-Natalie” with a smirk on his face.”

This was, Ms Pinkerton said, McCullagh “brazenly taunting and leaving messages behind”.

All of this was pre-recorded days before Ms McNally returned to her home on the 18th, she added.

During a break at around 9.15pm, rather than a screen saying ‘Livestream back soon’ as in previous breaks, the screen is replaced momentarily with a promotional photo of the James Bond film with the words No Time to Die.

The prosecution say this is what gamers refer to as an Easter Egg — a hidden message within a game.

McCullagh, who at one stage makes reference to Easter eggs, claimed this was coincidence and an error.

Defence barrister Craig Patton argued that his client had provided an explanation for why he pre-recorded the video as a “failsafe” for viewers more attracted to live content.

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