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'Robert the Painter'

By Joanne Sweeney

The bloody history of Robert the Painter is yet another true life Northern Ireland crime story that mirrors the miscarriage of justice in the Curran case.

The story of how Protestant man called Robert Taylor came to be sentenced to death for the murder of Catholic woman, Mary McGowan, more than 60 years ago, was told in the book Bloodstains in Ulster by Tom McAlindon.

Mrs McGowan was brutally attacked at her north Belfast home on April 16, 1949.

Before she died, it was claimed that she had indicated that Taylor was her attacker.

Robert the Painter, as Taylor became known in Press reports at the time, was from the Tigers Bay area of Belfast, and had previously done some work for the woman in her home before that fateful day back in 1949.

However the first trial ended in a hung jury.

At a second trial Taylor was found guilty and sentenced to hang.

In a sensational twist, however, the Court of Appeal freed Taylor on a legal technicality when it found that despite the trial judge's instructions, some jury members and their RUC minders had spoken to a member of the public outside the court while on an outing to Bangor.

Having had two trials, Taylor couldn't be tried again, and he returned home a hero.

News of his release was accepted with an angry silence by the nationalist community.

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