‘Leader of CIRA’ named during Carroll trial

The trial into the murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll continued today (Thursday)
The trial into the murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll continued today (Thursday)

A MAN thought to be the leader of the Continuity IRA in Craigavon was named in court yesterday as the trial of two men accused of murdering a Banbridge policeman continued.

A Detective Chief Inspector, the leading officer on the case into the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll, gave evidence of police interviews carried out following the murder and named Eddie Breen as someone police considered to be the commander of the CIRA in the area.

Statements given by a man, named only as Witness M, a year after the murder were read aloud in court and said Person A - identified as Eddie Breen - was seen standing beside 40-year-old murder accused Brendan McConville just before the killing.

When questioned as to why Breen hadn’t been re-arrested after the statement identifying him at the scene, the officer in charge said this would have put M’s family at risk of harm. He denied it was because Breen was a police informer.

The court also heard that the gun, thought to have been used in the shooting, was found at the back of a house in which Breen’s first cousin lived.

Earlier on Thursday morning Witness M was accused of lying to the court.

Under cross examination a defence barrister accused the witness of lying by claiming he saw former Sinn Fein councillor Brendan McConville close to the scene of the shooting in March 2009.

McConville, of Aldervale, Tullgally is accused of the murder alongside 20-year-old John Paul Wootton. Both deny the charges they face. Wootton’s mother Sharon, of Collindale in Lurgan, denies perverting the course of justice.

Witness M, who gave his evidence via video link, this morning admitted being prescribed glasses for short-sightedness in 2007, despite having yesterday (Wednesday) said he wore glasses only occasionally and for fashion purposes.

The defence QC asked M, “Why did you lie under oath?” but he denied doing so.

The barrister asked, “How many lies do you have to tell as you go along?”.

When witness M said the things he was being questioned on were “a long time ago” he was reminded he had provided evidence that he clearly remembered seeing McConville close to the murder scene almost three years ago.

He replied, “Something like that you don’t forget.”

Witness M was then questioned about a history of calling the police when he was drunk. Despite telling the court yesterday that he was “100 per cent” sure he hadn’t called the police when drunk, M admitted today - after a police record of the call was read aloud - that it had happened once, and that he had consumed “a few tins”.

Witness M was asked about whether he gambled, to which he replied “I have a bet on the football every now and again.”

It was later revealed M had racked up debts of £10,800 before entering the Witness Protection Scheme, as well as having visited a psychologist for depression.

Under the scheme, which he entered in March 2010, he now receives £210 each week, as well as being provided with a house and having his childcare paid for.

When asked if he had received any favours from the police in relation to giving evidence and entering the scheme, Witness M said he hadn’t.

The defence QC told the court how M had received a loan from the police for a new kitchen in his current residence, as well as a car loan. Witness M said one loan has been repaid and he is currently paying the other off in £50 instalments.

It was then put to the witness that he had lied about walking his dog in the area just before PC Carroll was shot, and seeing McConville close to the scene.

The defence said, “You don’t really care whether you lie or not do you? You’ve got your favours and your new life.”

The witness denied this, saying he is “worse off” now than before he spoke to the police.

The case continues.