Despite unreliable evidence, The Craigavon Two have spent the last 10 years in prison

Royal Courts of justice emblem over door
Peadar O'Cearnaigh

On 10 March 2009, police arrested Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton for the murder of constable Stephen Carroll in Co. Armagh in the north of Ireland. They were found guilty and jailed in May 2012.

Their supporters call them the Craigavon Two. And they want the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to re-examine this case and send it to the court of appeal.

Background to killing

Carroll was the first Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer killed since the Good Friday Agreement. This agreement brought peace to the north of Ireland after a 30-year conflict. A group called the Continuity IRA (CIRA) claimed responsibility for Carroll’s killing.

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The CIRA killed Carroll two days after the Real IRA (RIRA) shot dead two British soldiers at Massereene barracks in County Antrim. So the political atmosphere was tense. And there was a fear that the north could return to armed conflict. Fortunately, that wasn’t to be.

Prison sentences

McConville and Wootton spent almost three years in prison before their case went to trial. They are now 10 years into serving their 25 and 18-year sentences respectively. Wootton originally received a 14-year sentence but the court of appeal increased it in 2014.

Miscarriage of justice

As reported by The Canary, the Craigavon Two supporters believe it’s a miscarriage of justice because:

  • Witness M – a key witness in this case – testified to seeing McConville on the night of the shooting despite having eyesight problems. Another witness made a sworn affidavit describing witness M as “a compulsive liar”.
  • A tracking device on Wootton’s car shows it was 240 metres away from the shooting. The device also went missing, allegedly when in the hands of the British security services and then returned with vital data missing.
  • A brown coat found in Wootton’s car was supposed to belong to McConville. This coat apparently connects McConville to the crime. But it didn’t match Witness M’s description. Furthermore, there was DNA of up to possibly eight other people on the jacket, in addition to McConville’s.
Campaign for the Craigavon Two

The Canary also reported that the two men have received support from different sources. And the late Gerry Conlon of the Guilford Four chaired their campaign group before his death.

Since their appeals failed in 2014 and 2015, campaigners have called upon the CCRC to reinvestigate. They’ve also started an online petition to generate support. At the time of publication, the petition has just over 10,000 signatures.

The CCRC

Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton’s legal teams submitted their clients’ case to the CCRC in late 2016. While the CCRC hasn’t yet referred the case to an appeal court, it told The Canary “the case remains under review”. And McConville’s legal team said, “we are awaiting word”. A member of the Craigavon Two campaign team said there could be an update in the coming days. The campaign continues.

Featured image William Murphy/Flickr

Get involved

  • Find out more about this case and their petition to have it reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

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