Belfast Telegraph

Family reveals jail agony

Daughter tells of ordeal after dad acquitted 40 years on

By Ivan Little and David Whelan

The daughter of a man who cleared his name after a 40-year legal battle says her family will never get back the years that were taken from them.

Frank Newell (73) had his conviction for armed robbery quashed by senior judges after they ruled that crucial material had not been disclosed by the prosecution.

The former taxi driver from the Shankill Road in Belfast was sentenced to four years in prison in 1973, increased to eight after his first appeal was thrown out.

"I was eight years old when daddy was arrested and from that moment what had been an idyllic, happy family life changed for ever," Franchine Young said.

"At school, and in the whole community where we lived, even the dogs in the street knew that daddy was innocent. And besides, you didn't protest your innocence to that degree if you had done something."

At the time Mr Newell insisted that his car was hijacked by thieves who took £3,000 in the robbery, later linked to the UVF.

Mr Newell's wife Myrtle led a campaign to get her husband freed, including protests outside Crumlin Road Gaol.

"Everything just ticked along in our lovely lives and we felt protected, but overnight it all changed when one day daddy went to work and never came back," Franchine said

"All we heard was that daddy had been arrested for something he hadn't done. As a child the world is very black and white, and I wanted to know why he wasn't coming home if he didn't do anything.

"For the next couple of years mummy was running here, there and everywhere with her campaign to have daddy freed. I can recall that we were scared. It was horrendous. The impact was immeasurable, really.

"I know that a lot of people in Northern Ireland had loved ones who never came home but even after daddy was released, our lives were never the same again. You can't get back the four years that were taken from us.

"When he left I was eight years old, when he came back I was almost 13."

Franchine, the oldest of three children, said that it was difficult for their mother to continue the campaign while looking after her, her six-year-old brother Frank and her four-year-old sister Angie.

"We have always known he was an innocent man and in some ways the injustice which was done to him has made us a stronger family," she said.

"Obviously we can't get the missing years back again, but as a family we are extremely close."

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