Northern Ireland

Constable Stephen Carroll murder: Two men lose appeal against convictions

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Media captionKate Carroll: 'I'm just so relieved'

Two men jailed for the dissident republican murder of a policeman in Northern Ireland have lost an appeal against their convictions.

Constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead as he responded to a 999 call in Craigavon, County Armagh, in 2009.

He was the first police officer to be killed since the formation of the PSNI.

Brendan McConville, 42, of Glenholme Avenue in Craigavon, and 22-year-old John Paul Wootton, from Colindale in Lurgan, are serving life sentences.

'Futile'

The pair had attempted to overturn their convictions but their appeal was dismissed at the High Court in Belfast on Thursday.

The officer's widow, Kate Carroll, and her son, Shane, were in the public gallery to hear the ruling.

Outside court, Mrs Carroll expressed relief at the outcome and said her husband's murder had been "futile".

"There's more to life than trying to kill somebody because of a piece of land," she said.

Image caption Constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead in Craigavon in March 2009

The widow said the appeal had been hanging over her family like the "biggest, blackest cloud" and the whole process had been "a long, arduous journey".

"I heard the evidence and I was thinking - you'd know that people were guilty, it hasn't changed," she told reporters.

"I'm just so, so relieved. Nobody knows how much this has taken out of me."

Mrs Carroll added that she had worn her late husband's watch throughout the proceedings and felt that "he was with me the whole day".

She has set up a peace foundation in his memory and said that the ruling would allow her to "move forward" and "promote peace"

'Others involved'

Dismissing the appeal, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said he and his fellow appeal judges were satisfied that the original verdict had been correct.

"This attack was clearly an operation which required considerable logistic support. There were a number of others involved apart from those who were directly involved in firing the weapons.

"The surrounding circumstances in our view formed a compelling case that each of these appellants was guilty of the offences with which they were charged," he said.

Wootton and McConville showed no emotion as the ruling was delivered, but their relatives and supporters wept outside the court amid a heavy security presence.

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Image caption Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton are in jail for murdering Constable Carroll

Mrs Carroll told reporters she felt sympathy for the McConville family.

"I have a son exactly the same age as Brendan McConville and there, but for the grace of God, go I.

"My parents were very strict with us and I use an awful lot of old sayings, such as 'revenge is better served up as success'.

"My revenge is going to be success. With Steve's foundation, (I will) try and help as many people as I can along the way to peace," she added.

'Much missed'

Constable Carroll was ambushed and shot by the Continuity IRA on 9 March 2009 as his patrol responded to an emergency call at Lismore Manor, Craigavon.

McConville is serving at least a 25-year-sentence for the murder.

Wootton, who was a teenager at the time of the attack, received a minimum 14-year term.

The pair were originally convicted of the murder at a non-jury trial in March 2012.

Both men were also convicted of possession of an AK47 assault rifle and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

Wootton was further found guilty of attempting to collect information likely to be of use to terrorists.

Speaking after the Court of Appeal decision, PSNI Det Ch Insp Ricky Harkness said: "Our thoughts today are with Kate Carroll and the Carroll family."

"We welcome this decision," he added. "It is an acknowledgement of all the hard work by Serious Crime Branch detectives and partner agencies to get justice for a valued and much missed colleague."

The officer said that "more than two people were involved in the murder of Constable Carroll" and he appealed for anyone with information about the attack to contact police.

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