With an article that first appeared in the winter-issue of our bi-monthly magazine, Joanne Donnelly of ‘Justice for the Craigavon Two’ gives an update on the ongoing campaign to overturn the unsafe convictions of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton.

On 9th March 2009, PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll was shot and killed in the Lismore area of Craigavon while responding to a 999 call-out. Less than 24 hours later, both Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton (who was only 17 at the time) were arrested, and so began the process of scapegoating and the fabrication of evidence used to incarcerate the two men, who are now into their eight year at Maghaberry Gaol.

Readers familiar with the case will already know the scale of this injustice and the failure of the British state to ensure due process. But for those not as aware, this article will begin with a brief run through some of the main case facts and set out the main failings and gaps ingrained throughout the case, before moving on to an update on the campaign and where the fight for justice currently sits.

It should be noted that the case of the Craigavon Two is quite extensive and due to space imitations, this article will focus on the two mains areas of the state’s case against the two men. Omitting inconsistencies and contradictions with forensic evidence, the complicity and corruption of the Prison system and secret evidencewithheld from the defence etc, we encourage readers to visit our website or our Facebook Page for further information.

Case Facts

To set the case in context, PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll was the first PSNI Officer to be killed since the Good Friday Agreement. The shooting occurred only two days after the attack on Masserene Army Barracks, where two off-duty British soldiers were also killed. It would therefore be safe to assume that pressure to make swift arrests would have been felt by the PSNI. We as a campaign believe the arrests that followed were also to protect and cover up the involvement of state agents in the attack.

The subsequent arrest, three-year remanding, trial by Diplock Non-Jury Court and eventual life sentences bestowed upon Brendan and John Paul, compounded with failed appeals, marks this case as a travesty of justice that runs on par with the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Maguire Seven. The following case-facts speak for themselves and, as they rightly should, strike shock and anger into all who advocate and support human rights, especially the right to a fair trial (Article 6, Human Rights Act, 1998).

1. Witness M

The prosecution’s key and only ‘eyewitness’, known as ‘Witness M’, is at the center of the case against Brendan McConville. Found to have continuously lied under oath, his testimony fraught with contradictions and inaccuracies, his credibility has always been questionable to say the least. Case facts about Witness M include:

  • M came forward 11 months after the attack, calling the PSNI in the middle of the night whilst heavily intoxicated to state that he seen and could place Brendan nearby the scene of the shooting earlier that evening.
  • M denied having any eyesight impairments and continuously stated so under oath. However the defense were able to obtain evidence from a local opticians that confirmed that M did in fact have severe eyesight impairments, so much so that it rendered his testimony as medically impossible.
  • M’s version of events that evening was unsubstantiated by his partner, who he said he was with, and by family members he said he was visiting that night.
  • M’s father, known as Witness Z, referred to his son as a ‘Walter Mitty’ and a ‘compulsive liar’.  When Z was to be called by the defence he found himself arrested, held for two days in Dungannon police station, in a room without recording equipment and where the PSNI attempted to sabotage the case by trying to coerce Z into giving false statements against the legal teams. So much so that the legal teams sought and lobbied for protection from the United Nations.
  • M also denied benefiting financially from the case. Evidence brought before the court however confirmed that Witness M was in fact in receipt of regular weekly payments from the PSNI, he had holidays paid for, debts cleared and loans received. Witness M has also benefited from a £50k payout from The Sun newspaper.

2. The Tracking Device

A key piece of evidence used against John Paul Wootton is the tracking device attached to his car by British Military Intelligence. Once again there are serious shortcomings and flaws in the state’s narrative against John Paul, who the prosecution have implied to be the ‘getaway driver’ and who they also infer dropped Brendan McConville home after the attack. However, when we examine the facts surrounding the tracking device serious concerns remain unresolved:

  • Firstly, JP’s car was not parked in the immediate vicinity of the attack and was instead parked a quarter kilometer away in a nearby housing estate. Secondly, the tracking device data shows that JP’s car didn’t leave the area until 10 minutes after the attack. What getaway driver parks so far away and hangs around for 10 minutes after an attack before leaving?
  • The prosecution has also deduced that because JP drove nearby Brendan’s home he dropped him off after the attack. What is not acknowledged is that there were only two routes available to JP and both passed near Brendan’s home. Secondly, the tracking device failed to indicate that anyone exited the car near Brendan’s home – raising further questions about the prosecution’s narrative.
  • In addition, data from the tracking device did not place JP’s car anywhere near the location where the firearm used in the attack was subsequently found.
  • Finally, and more worrying than the flaws in the state’s narrative implying JP’s involvement, is that at trial it was disclosed the device had been compromised. Data from the device was found to have been purposefully and intentionally deleted, with no explanation given as to how, why or by whom, indicating that the evidence from the device had failed to substantiate the prosecution’s case against JP.

The above relates to only some of the contradictions, inconsistencies and lack of credible evidence that together demonstrate, beyond reasonable doubt, that both Brendan and JP were not involved in the attack. In fact no role has ever been assigned to the two men, the entire case based instead on pure conjecture together with state-sanctioned corruption.

Currently, the only realistic option for legal redress rests with the Criminal Cases Review Commission, who are tasked with ensuring that miscarriages of justice are overturned and justice served. It is now that the campaign, established in 2012 for the two men, is required to intensify its work and increase its visibility. Family led and independent, the campaign seeks to raise awareness with all advocates of human rights and justice, across all areas of society, at home and internationally, regardless of politics and to put pressure to bear on the state and those tasked with holding the state and its agencies to account.

Now that submissions have been made to the CCRC, the campaign is facing its biggest fight to date as we embark on the most realistic fight for legal redress. We call on supporters to get involved, to help us in our fight for justice for Brendan and John Paul, and to put an end to the misery experienced by both the McConville and Wootton families. Justice for the Craigavon Two.