Interview with Ex-POW Packy Carty on the illegal detention of the Craigavon Two
By JULIAN ICHIM
Give us a little background about yourself and your role in the Craigavon Two Campaign.
I’m Packy Carty, a former Irish Republican Prisoner. I was held for nine months in Maghaberry interned by remand; the state released me never once showing a shred of evidence to back up their claims. During my time in Maghaberry I became friends with Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton now better known as the Craigavon 2. I had followed their case closely and became intimately aware of the case against them first hand while incarcerated with them. It seemed there was nothing linking either men to the charges they were facing and all the POWs expected the case to be thrown out at trial. Unfortunately they were both sentenced to life by a non jury diplock court.
Who are the Craigavon Two and why are they in jail?
Brendan and John Paul are two Irish Republicans from Craigavon in County Armagh, John Paul Wootton has a love of Irish music and enjoys reading books on socialism, and has taken to studying economics while in jail. Brendan McConville is a fluent Irish speaker who teaches the native language to other prisoners, he has learned the guitar and enjoys making handy crafts. He was once elected as a councillor for the Craigavon area; soft spoken he enjoys debating and reading. In 2009 the CIRA killed a member of the PSNI in a sniper attack in Craigavon. In the aftermath both Brendan and John Paul where taken from their homes interrogated for 16 days, charged with murder and remanded to Maghaberry Jail.
Tell us a little bit about their trial and evidence used against them.
The trial took place in a highly charged atmosphere where the politicians and media were demanding retribution. At the same time prominent Irish Republican Colin Duffy was being tried for the IRA killing of two British Soldiers in Antrim and the case against him was also sinister. The case against the Craigavon 2 centred around four strands of so-called evidence: the brown jacket DNA, the brown jacket residue, Witness M and a British Army MI5 tracking device. When Brendan and John Paul where taken for interrogation by the PSNI, they seized Wootton’s car, and in the car they found a brown jacket with a number of DNA profiles, one of which belonged to Brendan McConville; also on the jacket was a firearms type residue. It was proved beyond doubt that the residue did not come from an AK 47, which was the weapon used in the shooting. The amount of DNA on the brown jacket could have been innocently placed by a sneeze or a slight touch. Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton were friends and Brendan had been in the car before. Yet the crown prosecution were trying to say that the coat belonged to McConville and was used in the shooting, even though the forensics disproved this theory. Eleven months after the shooting and after Brendan and John Paul had been through the newspapers and media, a man known only as witness M phoned the PSNI in the middle of the night while drunk and said he could identify those involved in the shooting. Despite being a vulnerable person this man became the key part of the prosecution case. He said he had seen Brendan near the scene if the shooting that night; it later transpired in court that his eyewitness testimony was clinically impossible, as he was severely short sighted and lied openly in court about his eyesight. It emerged that on the night of the shooting the British Army, most probably at the behest of MI5, were tracking Wootton’s car using a covert device. When the device was examined after Wootton’s car was seized, half of the data was purposely deleted, yet despite this destruction of evidence the device was accepted as evidence in the court. The remainder of the data said that 15 minutes following the shooting, Wootton’s car left a nearby housing estate. The state claimed that he was a getaway driver for the gunmen, but all this showed was 15 minutes after the shooting John Paul was casually driving through the area where he lived. Despite these loose and in no way incriminating strands of so-called evidence, the single judge sitting in a non jury court found both men guilty of the killing and sentenced them to life. It was then member of both the men’s families and friends began writing to people for help. Everyone including senior lawyers who had followed the case believed it had been a serious miscarriage of justice. Meanwhile the media vilified both men as evil killers. The Justice For the Craigavon 2 group was formed and attracted the support of high-profile lawyers and justice campaigners most notably the most iconic miscarriage of justice victim Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four (see the Daniel Day Lewis movie In the Name of the Father.) The group began lobbying and raising awareness through local media Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
What was discovered during the appeal?
It was announced that the appeal into the conviction would be held that April, so the group secured the promise from a number of human rights groups and from prominent individuals that they would attend as independent observers. The first day of the appeal in April opened to shocking revelations: a new defense witness who could discredit witness M’s account was arrested by the PSNI prior to the appeal starting in an effort to pressure the witness into retracting his evidence. It was openly called sabotage by the defense council, and the court suspended the appeal for 6 months to investigate the claims. During the summer at a human rights convention, lawyers who represented the Craigavon 2 said they feared arrest and feared for their colleagues’ lives due to the case. The appeal started again in October and ran for two weeks. It was a white wash for the prosecution start to finish; headlines from the appeal included no evidence to link the men to the killing as the full extent of the corrupt conspiracy was aired to a court that included human rights activists and Irish TDs as observers. To everyone there including myself, it was just unbelievable how this concoction was being used to keep two men interned for life. The support throughout the appeal was amazing: slogans on high rise flats in Belfast and a massive banner on the Black Mountain was seen by tens of thousands The last day of the appeal, a senior PSNI member came across as abusive and intimidating while highly unbelievable as he tried to say the new defense witness had been intimidated into making his statements by a lawyer and an IRA gun man. It was outlandish stuff. The three appeal court judges have reserved their judgment on the appeal and 6 months since it ended, there is still no sign of a decision in the case; it could take up to a year.
What can the international community do to support the Craigavon 2? The Justice For the Craigavon 2 group welcomes all acts of solidarity. All we ask is you send us the pics of your acts so we can publicize them. We would also encourage people to write to Brendan and John Paul in Maghaberry Jail and help raise their morale. View all the info about the men and their plight at justiceforthecraigavontwo.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @craigavon2 #JFTC2 www.facebook.com/JFTC2.