Glasgow & West Scotland

Sharkey fire deaths: Trial witness denies 'deal'

Thomas Sharkey Snr, Bridget and Thomas Jnr
Image caption Thomas Sharkey Snr, Bridget and Thomas Jnr died following the fire

A witness at the Sharkey fire deaths trial has denied buying his way out of prosecution over a pub attack by agreeing to inform against the accused.

William McFall, 34, has claimed that Scott Snowden and Robert Jennings paid him to throw ammonia at Michael McGinley in a Helensburgh pub in 2011.

He said he came forward after a member of the Sharkey family asked him to.

Mr Snowden and Mr Jennings deny murdering Thomas Sharkey and his two children by setting fire to their home.

Thomas Sharkey Jnr, 21, and his sister, Bridget, eight, died in the blaze at their home in Scott Court, Helensburgh. Their father, Thomas Snr, 55, died in hospital days later.

'Guilty person'

Both accused also face a charge of attempting to murder Mr Sharkey's wife, Angela, 48, who survived the fire on 24 July 2011.

Former drug addict Mr McFall was giving evidence for a second day at the High Court in Glasgow.

In his cross-examination, Donald Findlay QC, representing Mr Snowden, asked Mr McFall: "You bought your way out of trouble by converting yourself from a guilty person to a guilty person who would be of use to the police," and the witness replied: "No, not at all."

Image caption Angela Sharkey was the only family member to survive the fire

The QC added: "If you were, as you say looking after Scott Snowden and Robert Jennings you wouldn't have mentioned them at all."

Mr McFall replied: "Of course I would. It was out of the goodness of my heart. A member of the Sharkey family asked me to come forward."

He told the court that his daughter was a cousin of the two Sharkey children who died in the fire.

Mr McFall denied making up lies about Mr Snowden and Mr Jennings in a bid to buy his way out of a custodial sentence for the ammonia attack.

Mr Findlay said: "You knew the police were interested in a number of names including Scott Snowden and Robert Jennings," and Mr McFall replied: "No, not at all."

He added: "The police never had any information about the ammonia attack. I went to the police and told them about it."

Mr McFall insisted that he was never charged with the attack, but said he expected to be taken to court after this trial.

Deal denied

Mr Jennings QC, Ian Duguid, later asked: "What are you thinking of doing in relation to the ammonia attack," and Mr McFall said: "I'm pleading guilty and I will get jail time four or five years. If it's any more I'll accept it."

Mr McFall was asked by Mr Duguid: "After being interviewed by police in November 2011 did you speak to Jennings and tell him you had been offered a deal to stick him and Mr Snowden in to the police, is that correct," and he replied: "No."

Mr Duguid then said: "I suggest it is correct," and Mr McFall said: "Well I'm telling you it's not true."

Mr McFall was then asked why he had made a statement to the police in July 2012 about the ammonia attack and he replied: "The two children that got murdered are my child's cousins.

"The more I found out about Robert Jennings and Scott Snowden and their involvement in the alleged murders of the two kids, that's why I went forward."

Mr McFall told the court that at the time of the ammonia attack he owed money to Mr Jennings.

Mr Duguid asked him: "Why would Rab Jennings pay you money when you owed him," and Mr McFall replied: "Because the money was coming from Scott Snowden."

'Relevant information'

Prosecutor Alex Prentice QC then asked Mr McFall: "Was there information which you wanted to give to the police following the fatal fire in Helensburgh," and he replied: "I don't know anything about the fire."

Mr Prentice went on: "However, you had information which you thought may be relevant to the inquiry," and Mr McFall said: "Yes."

Mr McFall was then asked if he had told the truth about what happened in the Argyll Bar, Helensburgh, on 5 January 2011 and replied: "Yes."

Mr Prentice then asked: "Have you told the truth about who asked you to do it," and Mr McFall said: "Yes."

He also said he had told the truth about an alleged conversation with Mr Snowden after the ammonia attack in which he claimed Mr Snowden asked him if he had got the money.

Mr Snowden and Mr Jennings deny all the charges against them.

The trial before Lord Matthews continues.

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