Central to the prosecution case was the evidence of a man identified only as Witness M who claimed to have seen McConville in the area around the time of the killing. With this man’s father having made a statement branding his son a liar, defence lawyers allege he was arrested earlier this year and held by police in a bid to sabotage their case. He was ordered to attend the Court of Appeal to be questioned about his assessment of his son and about a covert surveillance operation said to have been carried out at his home. He told a panel of judges that his home, phone and car were all bugged. The man claimed that while in custody police tried to get him to retract everything in his affidavit.
No-one should be jailed on the word of a key witness against one of the two men convicted of a police murder, his own father has told a court. The man claimed he was “99% sure” his son gave a wrong account of his movements on the night Constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead. He described how his son was known in the family as a Water Mitty-type character and said: “He actually believes his own lies”.
Asked by Barry Macdonald QC, for McConville, if he was prepared to do that he replied: “No, it was the truth. I didn’t want to see anybody in prison on the word of my son because I know what he’s like.” He told the court he had not been coerced, threatened or forced into signing his statement.
Under cross-examination by Ciaran Murphy QC, for the prosecution, he said it was not possible for his son to have made the journey he described on the night of the shooting. Pressed further on that point, he added: “I’m 99 percent sure.”
The man told how he binned one mobile phone after discovering it was bugged during a call which felt “like an explosion”. Another device discovered in the boot of his car was thrown down the toilet, he said. He reiterated that he did not feel pressure to give evidence, but agreed that one meeting had been “hot and heavy”. The court heard of an incident at his home which led to him relocating. Detailing further alleged consequences of his son’s testimony, he said: “If I was up the town they would shout there’s the tout’s da. “Once in the bar this fella put his hand up like this, as if he had a gun.” He added: “My nerves are shattered.” At one stage Mr Murphy asked if he made things up when it suited him. “No,” the man replied. But he agreed when it was put to him: “Would you accept you have some difficulty remembering specific events.”
This section from BBC News
Day Six: Yesterdays witness the father of Witness M was recalled and Queens Counsel for the Prosecution Mr Ciaran Murphy continued his cross examination of the witness concentrating on wether or not the witness had been intimidated or coerced into signing his witness affidavit which totally exposed witness Ms testimony to be unreliable and possibly fabricated.
This witness was the subject of police and covert intelligence surveillance for over two years. A man who had committed no crime nor had he ever been arrested nor was evidence produced that this man was a threat to the state yet his house was bugged as was his phone and car he was also secretly recorded on camera as he went about his lawful business.
The witness spent a long time yesterday and a part of this morning being questioned and it must have been a very tiring and traumatic experience i feel very strongly this witness is a forgotten victim in this whole saga. His son (witness m) is in the witness protection programe with whom he has no contact .He has been intimidated at his home he claims by both the police and the hoods and i feel he has paid a very large price for something that has not been of his making . His court appearance while in the interests of justice is just another example of being caught up in events larger than himself. For man of his age I think he coped remarkably well
Next on the witness stand called by Queens Counsel for the defense Mr Barry MacDonald, was the Former Prison Ombudsman Mrs Pauline McCabe who was the Prison Ombudsman for 5 years ending in May 2013.
It was the Prisons Ombudsman Office and investigators who compiled a report which concluded that a note found in Mr McConvilles Cell upon which details of the Prison Governors car registration were found did not originate from Mr Mconville but were in all probability planted by a member of the Prison Staff a line of inquiry which was not actively persued by the Police during their investigation and indeed possibly deliberately ignored as the Police focused their resources solely on Mr McConville at a time when he was remanded in custody charged in connection with the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll.
Mrs McCabe contacted the police including senior officers to convey her concerns that the police were not investigating Mr McConvilles very justified claims that the note had been planted in his cell by prison staff. The police inquiries were being carried out by the very officers who were involved in the Stephen Carroll Murder case of which Mr McConville was one of the accused! The note in question was found in a cell at Maghaberry Prison where Steve Rodford was then Govenor.
Mr Rodford when giving evidence today stated under oath he felt that although he had no proof a member of the SST Standby Search Team at the prison had placed his details in Mr McConvilles cell in order to frighten or intimidate him as he was in the process of disbanding the SST at the prison as part of the Prison Reforms he was introducing at that time. He said a cynical person could infer a link between the proposed disbandment of the Standby Search Team and the finding of his car registration details in Mr McConvilles cell. He recalled that when a member of the SST had informed him of the find he had added how he hoped neither Mr Rodford nor his wife would feel endangered by this discovery. Mr Rodford felt these comments to be insincere and indeed were delivered in a very smug manner.
Mr Rodford who claimed to have extensive experience within the prison service claimed he believed many members of the prison staff resented the proposed disbandment of the Standby Search Team and indeed in his opinion many of the staff thought they were running the prison an attitude he had encountered before in other facilities. Mr Rodford stayed in a hotel for 3 to 4 weeks and during this time he was interviewed by the police.
During this interview the police expressed the opinion that the case against was Mr McConville (in the Stephen Carroll case?) was DELICATE and that these allegations against McConville could help build a case? There are suggestions from notes taken by the Prison Ombudsman about this interview that Mr Rodford was asked to add something to his statement to the police which he refused to do. In court today Mr Rodford said he no recollection of being asked to add anything to his statement but insisted that the police include in his statement his concerns that the evidence (in Mr McConvilles cell) was planted by a member of prison staff.
Next on the witness stand was a police officer who had interviewed witness Ms father when he was under arrest. During questioning by Mr MacDonald it was related to the court that sometime after witness Ms father had given a statement to the defense team he was approached by police and interviewed at a relatives home.
The witness was then arrested on suspicion of with holding information. He was taken to a police station but was kept in a police car for 30 minutes (presumably questioned) before being taken into custody. The witness who is an older man was then interviewed on ten occasions over the next 24 to 30 hours but very few of the questions if any according to the defense QC were related to the with holding or of any evidence related to events connected to May 3 to 5 2013.
The defense QC seemed to think the police were more interested in what the witness had said in his statements and if he had been coerced into making his affidavit.
The Constable agreed that it was the first time he had ever arrested a witness in an appeal case prior to the case being heard it was suggested the arrest was staged partly to prevent the witness from attending court? [This section by Fra Hughes a columnist with the North Belfast News]