Constable Carroll murder gun was ‘found after tip-off’

Constable Stephen Carroll
Constable Stephen Carroll

Solicitors acting for two Craigavon men convicted of killing PSNI officer Constable Stephen Carroll have written to the Public Prosecution Service after new details about the case were made public.

Brendan McConville (43) and John Paul Wootton (23) were convicted of murdering the Banbridge man in Craigavon in March 2009. Both men have denied any part in the Continuity IRA attack that claimed the PSNI man’s life as he answered an emergency call.

Last week it emerged in a European Court judgment that the gun used to kill Constable Carroll was discovered by police after a tip-off by a suspect who was in custody at the time.

The suspect is referred to in court papers as ‘RE’. The suspect was initially charged with withholding information about Mr Carroll’s killing but these charges were later dropped in mid 2010.

Brendan McConville’s solicitor Darragh Mackin of KRW Law wrote to the PPS requesting notes taken during police interviews with RE and asking what happened to the charge levelled against him.

Details of the case emerged after RE took a case against the government over concerns the PSNI was carrying out surveillance of conversations between him and his solicitor.

The man was arrested and questioned three times after the officer was killed. Court papers reveal that he was assessed by a medical officer as a ‘vulnerable person’ and therefore should not have been interviewed - unless in exceptional circumstances - in the absence of an appropriate adult. Court papers reveal that before being seen by a solicitor or appropriate adult, the man asked to speak to officers ‘off the record’.

During that interview he ‘gave information which led to the recovery of the gun used in the constable’s murder’.

His solicitors subsequently brought a separate case on his behalf to the European Court which this week found that secret surveillance carried out on solicitors and their clients is in breach of European law.

During the first two periods of detention his solicitor was assured that consultations would not be subject to covert surveillance. During a third arrest the PSNI refused to give an assurance. The court ruling found that the man’s Article Eight rights under the European Court of Human Rights had been violated. It protects the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence. Nichola Harte, a solicitor who represents RE, said the ruling had wider implications. “The police arrangements were and continue to be a violation of the right to respect for private life,” she said adding that the ruling had implications for all legal consultations in police stations if subjected to covert surveillance.