The "Craigavon 2" case saw two Irish Republicans wrongfully convicted of the murder of a police officer, after a trial before a "Diplock" court, a secret military court with no jury. The case has been supported as a miscarriage of justice by high profile campaigners, legal experts & human rights activists. The prosecution used discredited witnesses, inconclusive forensics, and tampered evidence to secure a conviction that does not stand up to scrutiny. Security services destroyed evidence, intimidated witnesses and defence lawyers.
Calls for the case to be examined or overturned have come from Dublin City Council, the RMT union, and Gerry Conlon of the Guildford 4, among others. A petition calling for their release summarises the facts of their case as:
On March 9th 2009 Constable Steven Carroll was fatally shot in Craigavon, County Armagh, Northern Ireland . On the 30th of March 2012 Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton were convicted of the shooting and sentenced to life in prison.
At the trial no evidence of Brendan McConville or John-Paul Wootton’s direct involvement in the shooting was ever presented. It wasn't presented because it doesn't exist.
Instead the conviction was based on:
1.) The testimony of a witness who testified that on the heavily raining night of the shooting he saw McConville dressed in a green army jacket in the neighborhood of the shooting around the time of the shooting.
2.) DNA evidence from a jacket retrieved from Wootton's car after the shooting that an expert testified had McConville's DNA on it and traces of what possibly could be gunpowder.
3.) A GPS tracking device that had been placed in Wootton's car sometime prior to the shooting which showed the car leaving a housing estate adjacent to the one where the shooting occurred ten minutes after the shooting & passing near McConville's home on its way back to Wootton's. The prosecution used this information to surmise that McConville was dropped off by Wootton before he made his own way home.
The problems with the conviction are as follows:
1.) The prosecution's star witness, Witness M, gave the only testimony that placed either of the two men near the scene of the shooting. He testified that, on that very dark and rainy night, he saw McConville, from a distance of about 16 yards by an electricity box wearing a green knee length army coat with a German logo. The witness, however, was shown to be astigmatic & short shorted – conditions which would have made him unable to see what he said he saw.
In addition, his partner who was walking with him that night refused to corroborate his story.
Furthermore, he waited 11 months to come forward (by which time McConville's name had been widely spread by the press), was shown to have repeatedly lied under oath and had contacted the police on a number of occasions while drunk or drinking, including the night of his original call. Also large extracts of his witness statement to the police were redacted.
All of this is further compromised by the fact that the witness receives a weekly income from the PSNI and also receives an allowance for childcare. He has had loans and overseas holidays facilitated for his children and has received other financial benefits.
2.) When the AK47 that was used in the shooting was discovered, a partial fingerprint was found on the internal spring mechanism of the magazine. This fingerprint was checked against the fingerprints of McConville and Wootton. No matches were found. Also, according to the tracking device Wootton's car never went near the housing estate where the rifle was found.
3.) The prosecution claimed a jacket found in Wootton's car with McConville's DNA & traces of what might be gunpowder, were further proof of the men's involvement in the shooting. The jacket, however, was brown leather & waist length, not the green knee length army jacked with a German logo the witness had claimed to see. In addition, the jacket was completely dry, not very wet as it would have been if McConville had been wearing it during the shooting. In addition, when police searched both men's homes they found no traces of the wet and/or muddy clothes they were specifically looking for.
4.) The only “evidence” tying John Paul Wootton to the killing is his car & the GPS tracking device that was placed on it sometime prior to the shooting. The tracking device showed Wootton's car leaving a housing estate a quarter of a kilometer from the estate where the shooting took place about 10 minutes after the shooting occurred. It proceeded at a normal pace along one of the two available routes leading from where he was to his home. (Both routes pass close to McConville's house.) According to the prosecution Wootton dropped off McConville and went home. However, at no time did the tracking device show the car's doors being opened anywhere near McConville's home. Even more worrying, data from the tracking device was mysteriously wiped while the device was in the hands of the army. No plausible explanation was ever given as to why this happened.
There is more. The fact that the men were denied the benefit of a trial by jury. Admitted deficiencies in witness testimony, state interference with new witnesses who were scheduled to testify at the appeal, etc.
As you can see from the facts of the case, no credible shred of evidence exists to connect either man with the shooting Every independent legal expert who has reviewed this case has agreed these men should never have been convicted.The flaws in the case are many and taken together can only result in a single conclusion:
This is a miscarriage of justice that needs to be corrected now!
Much more information about the case can be found at the Justice for the Craigavon 2 website.