Man charged with murder of Magherafelt man refused bail

Gary Convie who was shot dead alongside colleague Eamon Fox by the UVF in 1994 in Belfast.
Gary Convie who was shot dead alongside colleague Eamon Fox by the UVF in 1994 in Belfast.

A man charged with the loyalist murders of two Catholic workmen nearly 20 years ago must remain in custody, a judge ruled today.

Mark Campbell was refused bail amid police claims he may flee due to a fear of other suspects not yet arrested.

Campbell, 42, of Canning Place, Belfast, is accused of the double killing of Gary Convie and Eamon Fox in the north of the city.

He was detained earlier this month by detectives investigating the paramilitary shootings.

Mr Convie, 24, and Mr Fox, 44, were sitting in their car at a building site in North Queen Street on May 17, 1994 when a gunman opened fire with a sub-machine gun.

Campbell faces further charges of attempting to murder of a third man, Donal Laverty, on the same date and possessing a Sten submachine gun and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

All of the alleged offences are denied.

Opposing Campbell’s bail application at Belfast Magistrates’ Court, a detective sergeant claimed he may not turn up for trial if released.

He revealed that the defendant has previously lived in Scotland and was now aware of evidence about other possible suspects in the case.

“This may further the risk of flight due to a fear from other suspects not yet arrested,” the officer said.

“It’s known that the defendant has previously left the jurisdiction in the fact of perceived threats from paramilitary associates.”

The detective also suggested witnesses could be interfered with or face intimidation.

Defence solicitor Eoghan McKenna told the court no forensic evidence has been put to his client.

He said the case centres on a withheld source identified only as Witness A, with all other statements coming from serving or former members of the security forces.

“It’s somewhat disingenuous in those circumstance to place such emphasis on potential interference with witnesses,” Mr McKenna argued.

“The identity of these witnesses is unknown.”

During the hearing District Judge George Conner was told another man previously convicted over the murders has since died.

Mr McKenna also contended that even if ultimately found guilty Campbell was unlikely to face more than two years in jail under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

In a reference to political attempts to deal with Northern Ireland’s troubled past, he said: “There’s some uncertainty on how these type of cases will be dealt with going forward.”

The lawyer added: “The evidence at this stage looks questionable on a number of fronts to justify any confidence of a conviction.”

Refusing bail, Judge Conner stressed that he was not concerned with whether the case came under the Good Frioday Agreement.

Citing concerns about possible witness interference, he said: “Someone will want to know what has been said, someone will want to know who Witness A is and what has emerged from their evidence.

“At this stage there’s too high a risk of interference with the inquiries.”

Campbell can now appeal the decision to the High Court.