My name is Brendan McConville, I am writing to you from a prison cell in Maghaberry Prison in the North of Ireland. I along with John Paul Wootton have spent almost nine years locked up as casualties of a gross miscarriage of justice. Our story has become known as the Craigavon Two and I would like to tell you a little about the circumstances of my wrongful conviction and its impact upon my family and me.
On 9 March 2009, police constable Stephen Carroll was shot and killed in Craigavon, County Armagh. However, it wasn’t until the following morning that this event, in which I had absolutely no involvement, came crashing into my life.
My ordeal began around noon with the arrival of armed police in armoured vehicles at my home, which I shared with my fifteen-year-old son. The police proceeded to carry out a forensic search of the property and I was subsequently arrested and taken to Antrim interrogation centre. I was later to learn that other Republican activists and individuals local in the area, including John Paul had also been arrested and brought to the same place.
I was to spend 15 days in Antrim and undergo 30 separate interviews, during which the police claimed that my DNA profile had been discovered on a brown jacket recovered from the boot of John Paul’s car, which also had traces of gun-shot residue on it. On the basis of this questionable evidence we were both charged with murder, John Paul was 17 at the time. As John Paul was a juvenile at the time his identity was withheld from publication, where as I was paraded before the glare of the media in handcuffs and my name broadcast over TV and newspapers.
I was taken to Maghaberry Prison where I waited almost three years for a trial, which eventually took place in Belfast, without a jury. The case was heard by a single judge who performed the dual role of both judge and jury. At the trial it was revealed that the brown jacket retrieved from the car, had multiple DNA profiles on it which a prosecution forensic expert conceded had come from at least three separate people and possibly up to ten different individuals. Furthermore, two prosecution experts and a defence expert agreed that the residue did not contain all the elements of gun-shot residue and therefore could not be said with complete certainty to have emanated from a firearm. Additionally, the jacket was completely dry when recovered, even though it had rained heavily on the night of the shooting.
Approximately 11 months after the shooting on Valentine’s night a man whose father would later claim a “compulsive liar” and “Walter Mitty” contacted the police and said he saw me that night wearing a “green” army coat in the proximity of where the policeman was shot. During cross examination, the alleged witness who was referred to as Witness M denied that he had been prescribed glasses. However, a prescription produced by defence showed M had been prescribed glasses due to short-sightedness and astigmatism. A prosecution ophthalmologist concluded that someone with M’s condition would not be able to identify facial features beyond eight yards. Measurements showed that the distance M claims to have seen me was over 16 yards. Moreover, M’s partner who he claimed was with him, could not confirm his version of events. It also transpired that M contacted police while drunk and had previously received treatment for psychological problems. M also benefitted financially from his evidence, including a £50,000 reward from The Sun newspaper.
The final element of the case related to a tracking devise fitted to John Paul’s car. This showed his car was actually parked in the middle of a housing estate approximately a quarter of a kilometre away from the incident. It was also revealed that data relating to the car’s movement in the aftermath of the shooting had been mysteriously erased by unidentified British soldiers.
John Paul and I were both found guilty of murder under the joint enterprise doctrine, no specific role was ascribed to either of us. I was given a 25 year, tariff while John Paul is serving an 18 year tariff.
Since being in prison I received a letter to which I responded, from this correspondence a beautiful friendship and love blossomed. A year ago I became married to Siobhán, who heads my family led campaign for justice. I find escape from the daily grind of prison by studying and am half way through an Open University degree, I go to the gym daily and also play guitar. The Craigavon Two campaign has attracted widespread support and was originally headed by the late Gerry Conlon of the Guildford 4.
My case is now currently being reviewed by the CCRC (Criminal Case Review Commission)
I am asking for your help to spread the word of our miscarriage of justice. Injustice for one is injustice for all. Please visit “The C 2” Facebook page my wife runs, for more information.