Following the recent announcement that a date has been set (29 April 2013) for the appeal of the ‘Craigavon Two’ (Brendan Mc Conville and John Paul Wootton) who were convicted of the killing of PSNI Constable Carroll in 2009, IR News exclusively interviews both Brendan and John Paul who are presently incarcerated in Maghaberry jail for an action that they both vehemently deny.
When asked the question why they think their plight has been so successful in gaining support from many prominent public figures such as Gerry Conlon (Guildford four), Paddy Hill (Birmingham six), Eamon O Ciuv TD and the Committee for the Administration of Justice to name but just a few, they replied;
“We both believe this is due to the eventual realisation that the process through which we were convicted was at best unsafe and upon even a cursory examination of the evidence presented at trial, it is clear that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.”
“The facts of the case are a matter of public record and are there for anyone who wishes to see them. However, those facts only tell one side of the story and we want to tell everyone just what it is like to be serving a sentence for something we had nothing to do with and how this has affected every single member of our immediate families and circle of friends.”
Both men described their ordeal as a “nightmare” that began on the morning of 10th March 2009 when heavily armed P.S.N.I personnel arrived at the home of Brendan and his 14 year old son and from where he was conveyed to Antrim barracks. A short time later, John Paul was to be accosted on the street, in the full glare of the media spotlight and subsequently, he too was taken to Antrim where both of them were to undergo two weeks of sustained and relentless interrogation, during which time the P.S.N.I., they claim, were to “contrive to cobble together a case against us using unconvincing and at most, weak circumstantial evidence.”
Continuing, “This horrifying and traumatic fortnight culminated in both of us being charged and again being thrust back into the media feeding frenzy as we were brought before court then rapidly transported to Hydebank and Maghaberry Prisons respectively where our enduring ordeal was continuing to unfold. Throughout this torment and while struggling to comprehend the magnitude of the events which had just occurred, we were both acutely aware of simultaneous distress and anxiety being experienced by our families, one which continues to envelop ourselves and our loved ones.
Notwithstanding the obvious depravities and constant humiliations that we have experienced throughout our incarceration our families and loved ones have also had to share this indignity by having to undergo rigorous searches and a loss of intimacy as we struggle to maintain and nourish close family bonds, within a very restricted environment and insufficient periods of time which are allowed to accommodate a single weekly visit.”
“During this period we sustained ourselves with the thought that this nightmare could soon be over once we got to trial, because surely a court would see that the evidence being presented against us was at best circumstantial and at worst contrived. However, on the 30th March 2012 we and our families were to receive the most disturbing and distressing news of all, when we were both found guilty by a single judge in a Diplock court, and sentenced to life in prison. We were both returned to prison that day in a complete state of shock and utter bewilderment as to how the trial judge had arrived at this conclusion, given the erroneous and contradictory evidence that the prosecution had put before the court.
The final insult was to come in the form of misleading and inaccurate allegations which were to find their way into some less reputable media outlets, which called into question our conduct throughout the trial. We found these accusations to be particularly hurtful and offensive, as at all times throughout this painful ordeal, our focus was solely confined to the evidence which each witness was to give, and at no time did we conduct ourselves in a manner which was intended to cause upset or offence to anyone.
We wish to take this opportunity to thank those who have continuously supported our campaign for justice throughout this dark period in our lives and would like to recount our harsh experiences during the past number of years, and attempt to give an insight into the demoralizing effect that this has had on our families and relationships.”
Should this indeed be a ‘miscarriage of justice’ it has then denied John Paul the opportunity of enjoying all the typical milestones which would normally be celebrated by others of his age group, such as his eighteenth and twenty first birthdays, and he has missed out in what is a very important time in the life of all young people for building lasting relationships and a career.
It has also deprived Brendan of participation in significant events in in the life of his young family, such as his sons’ progression through their final and most important years of school and into the workplace.
The harsh reality is that both men and their families must face an uncertain future where every family celebration or time of shared grief will be incomplete with their conspicuous absence.
The toll that this injustice has exacted on the entire McConville family, cannot be understated, as Brendan’s family have previously been visited by tragedy, when his uncle, Myles Scullion, a father of five, was the innocent victim of loyalist paramilitaries, when he was shot and killed by two UVF gunmen after answering the front door of his home of Craigavon, a crime for which no-one has ever been arrested or even questioned for. On talking to Brendan it is clear that he had hoped that by this stage in their lives his parents could take some pleasure from their well-earned retirement, rather than finding themselves in the unfamiliar territory of campaigning for their son’s freedom.
This entire ordeal has had a similarly profound effect on the Wootton family with John Paul’s mother having to juggle travelling from Maghaberry Prison, where John Paul is now being held, in an effort to maintain close family links, while caring for and struggling to retain a semblance of normality for John Pauls younger brother, while at the same time also campaigning for her son’s freedom.
Having to watch her son grow from a teenager into a man from across a table in a prison visiting room, has placed an untold strain on the emotional well-being of John Paul’s mother.
We must all ask why and indeed how, did such a clear unconvincing conviction in a Non-jury court manage to find them guilty ….. or perhaps the reason for a conviction had little to do with the pursuit of justice and more to do with protecting vested interests such as Mi5 and their willingness to protect an agent of the state. Either way the facts of the case, we feel, speak for themselves and we would ask anyone concerned with the quality of justice administered in the courts to look at those facts and then come to a conclusion rather than relying on ‘sound bites’ from a sensational tabloid media.
IR News has sought and found a number of impartial legal experts and had them to look at the trial transcripts. Shockingly they all said the same, Justice was not served that day.