Belfast Telegraph

Stephen Carroll murder: Police aimed for a prosecution at all costs, court told

By Alan Erwin

A former prisoner ombudsman and a jail governor have been ordered to attend court amid claims police were intent on prosecuting one of the men found guilty of killing Constable Stephen Carroll at all costs.

Senior judges issued summons for Pauline McCabe and Steve Rodford to give evidence next week at the appeal hearing of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton.

They are expected to be questioned about a note containing Mr Rodford's personal details which was found in McConville's cell. With defence lawyers alleging that a key prosecution witness was branded a compulsive liar by his own family, a relative of this man has also been called to testify. McConville (42) and Wootton (22) are both seeking to overturn their convictions for the March 2009 murder.

Constable Carroll was ambushed and shot in his car as he responded to a 999 call at Lismore Manor in Craigavon.

McConville, of Glenholme Avenue in the town, is serving at least a 25-year sentence for the killing. Wootton, from Lurgan, received a minimum 14-year term.

The case against them at the non-jury trial involved DNA and other evidence.

Prosecutors contended that Wootton's car was near the scene of the attack and driven off within minutes of the killing. However, his legal team insist absolutely no evidence exists to link him to any role in the shooting.

Gun residue was found on a coat linked to McConville which was later recovered from the vehicle. His lawyers yesterday applied to have Ms McCabe, the former prison ombudsman, and Mr Rodford, the ex-Maghaberry jail governor, called to give evidence.

Inquiries were carried out by Ms McCabe following the discovery of a note containing Mr Rodford's personal details in McConville's cell in 2009, amid suspicions that it was planted by a prison officer. Mr Rodford resigned a short time after the note was found. Making the application in the Court of Appeal, Barry MacDonald QC said: "The intention was to prosecute Mr McConville at all costs and (with) whatever evidence could be obtained against him, even if it wasn't sound evidence. It appears from the papers we have that the senior investigating officer in relation to the find of the note in the cell was clearly aware that Mr McConville had made the allegation this note must have been planted."

Counsel for the prosecution argued that the case against both appellants withstood their challenges.

Ciaran Murphy QC claimed neither Wootton nor McConville had given a proper explanation for the evidence he said established their guilt.

Mr Murphy described it as a circumstantial case involving Wootton's car being located near the scene and the gun discharge on a coat found in it.

He said: "All of that evidence... created not a speculative case but a significant case against both of the accused." The appeal continues.

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