New evidence that was brought forward by Channel 4 News last week could mean that there may be grounds for a retrial for both Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton, otherwise known as the Craigavon 2.
The two men are currently serving 25 & 18 years in prison over the murder of the first member of the PSNI to be killed since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement back in 1998, with both men categorically denying any involvement in the incident.
The new evidence focuses around further involvement of state intelligence in the trail of the Craigavon 2 following an mi5 agent, Dennis McFadden, being outed in late August 2020 after a controversial raid which resulted in the arrests of 10 political activists, one of whom is a Palestinian Doctor who claims to have been set up by McFadden.
When the news was uncovered that McFadden was in-fact an informer, many in the republican community had once again felt a great betrayal by someone who was already scarcely trusted and they began to look at his involvement in other areas of republican causes.
McFadden held several key positions across republican lobby groups, mainly in the area of republican prisoners often driving families of detained republicans to prison visits. Under the guise of a hotel safety officer with the ability to use photography equipment and software, McFadden used this cover to travel, and also was often seen with recording equipment such as a camera, which gained him the trust of a small few to often deal with PR, finances and the logistics of several political parties and welfare groups over the years.
One of the key areas of concern was brought forward by broadcaster Channel 4 following a short 9 minute documentary released on the subject. Whilst filming Channel 4 met with the Families of Brendan McConville and JP Wootton who had revealed that McFadden often sat in on the family’s private legal briefings alongside the likes of veteran human rights campaigner and member of the the Guildford 4, Gerry Conlon, who was a huge supporter of the Craigavon 2. It is now their impression that all legal challenges and sensitive information were being passed back to the state ultimately resulting in an unfair appeal once again.
The controversial circumstances in which evidence already put forward against Craigavon 2 had led to calls for a complete dismissal following the abuse of human rights that have taken place since 2009. Already we have seen these two men face a diplock court with nearly all evidence (or lack of evidence we should say) being brought forward by the state. The trail itself mainly rested on the evidence of a sole witness, witness M, whose own father has described as a Walter Mitty character, with his own doctor even stating on record that this witness does not have the eyesight to claim to have seen one of the men in the area at the time from the distance he claims. This evidence is also supported by a claim that residue from a gun being discharged was found on a coat of Brendan McConville which matched that of a hunting gun opposed to that of an assault rifle used to kill the PSNI officer.
Furthermore, mi5 had already been tracking JP Wootton for some time and had fitted a tracking device to his car, the agent who was in charge of this claims to have had all the data erased solely from that night after the device had been left on his desk after he left for a “long weekend” and found it was compromised upon his return.
Evidence tampering and a lying witness weren’t enough to bring the courts to make the decision of innocence on the two men and had initially sentenced them to 25 years for McConville and 14 years for Wootton however this was raised to 18 years following a court of appeal back in 2014.
Will this new undeniable evidence of further state involvement be taken into consideration by the courts, if this is the case this should lead to a complete dismissal, taking into consideration how the state have already mishandled the entire case in the sudden push to make it look like Britain has control of law and order in Ireland.
Speaking with Channel 4 News on McFadden , Mc Conville said :
“ I believe he sabotaged my appeal, I felt he had a real genuine concern for justice, little did I know that it was the hand of mi5. The conviction is wrong, it’s a miscarriage of justice I had absolutely nothing to do with the events of that night at all.”
The solicitors of both men have filed a case with the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has the precedent of being deemed unsafe because of the involvement of multiple state factors manipulating evidence, which in the history of Ireland has seen several cases overturned due to the evidence put forward of double agents such as Freddie Scappaticci otherwise known as SteakKnife.
With new grounds for another valid appeal, this could possibly lead to the convictions of both Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton being overturned, two men used yet again as scapegoats in Britain’s dirty colonial war.