Two Craigavon men convicted of killing Constable Stephen Carroll have called on the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate the disappearance of information from a security force tracking device in their case.
The duo have written an open letter following DPP Mr Barra McGrory’s decision to ask the PSNI to carry out a full investigation into the destruction of evidence connected to the RUC killing of Michael Tighe near Lurgan in 1982.
The 17-year-old was shot dead in a hayshed which was under surveillance by the security forces in an alleged ‘shoot-to-kill’ operation.
It later emerged that a senior RUC officer ordered the destruction of an audio recording of the incident. A second recording of the incident held by MI5 was also later destroyed.
Lurgan man Martin McCauley, who was also in the hayshed with Mr Tighe, was later convicted of possessing three rifles found in the building but was acquitted on appeal.
Comments by the judge regarding the concealment and destruction of potential evidence prompted Mr McGrory’s recent intervention. Both the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman are investigating the case.
In a joint letter to the Irish News, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton describe ‘glaring parallels’ in their case and the Tighe case. Both Craigavon men are serving lengthy prison sentences after they were convicted of killing Constable Carroll (48) in a Continuity IRA attack in Craigavon in March 2009.
During their trial it emerged that data recorded on a tracking device placed on Wootton’s car by the Army was later wiped.
The men said: “The question must now be asked how can Mr McGrory attach such significance to the wiping of evidence in the Tighe case while at the same time ignoring similar misconduct in our case?
“Mr McGrory’s expressed concern that the case of Michael Tighe could potentially undermine the credibility of the Public Prosecution Service, could equally apply to our own case.
“In denying the truth, Mr McGrory’s predecessors withheld justice from the family of Michael Tighe for over 30 years. Does he intend to mimmick what he now condemns and wait for his successor to address his current wrongs or is he now prepared to accept that justice was similarly perverted in a case in which he continues to be instrumental?”
A spokesperson for the PPS said: “It is entirely wrong to claim that there are any legal similarities relating to surveillance evidence in these cases.”
She said in the McConville/Wootton case the ‘deletion of material’ from a tracking device was heard in court and the defence was able to challenge its ‘admissibility and evidential value’.
“This contrasts with the quashing of the conviction of Martin McCauley by the Court of Appeal after the uncovering of information that relevant recordings [had] been withheld from the courts and the director of public prosecutions and then later destroyed. In his judgement the Lord Chief Justice said it was ‘at least arguable that the destruction amounted to a perversion of the course of justice’,” said a PPS spokesperson.