Man jailed for life for murder of British soldiers has convictions quashed – The Irish News

A man jailed for life for the murder of four British soldiers nearly 50 years ago has had his convictions quashed by Northern Ireland’s Court of Appeal.

Senior judges ruled that Patrick Thompson’s murder convictions were “unsafe” due to confession evidence used against him at his Crown Court trial.

The victims died in an IRA landmine explosion near Forkhill, south Armagh in July 1975.

They were part of a patrol investigating suspicious but ultimately decoy milk churns left near Ford’s Cross.

Mr Thompson was subsequently arrested driving a car as he matched a description given by another soldier along with a circumstantial case based on his whereabouts.

He denied any role, but was found guilty of the murders and IRA membership. He was handed life sentences of 30 years and was released in March 1992.

Despite contending that RUC officers subjected him to inhuman treatment in custody to obtain confessions, an initial appeal against conviction was unsuccessful.

Now aged in his seventies, Thompson mounted a new bid to clear his name.

The Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) referred the case for fresh judicial consideration due to the real possibility his convictions would be found to be unsafe.

The CCRC cited “compelling evidence” which called into question the credibility of a senior RUC detective who questioned Mr Thompson during his arrest.

At his appeal hearing, defense counsel Frank O’Donoghue KC told Lady Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan, sitting with Lord Justice Treacy and Mr Justice Fowler, that Mr Thompson was wrongly convicted on the basis of his alleged confession to an “irredeemably tainted” senior detective .

“He was prepared to tell the court untruths in a convincing manner so that experienced judges believed he was an impressive witness – that strikes at the very heart of the integrity of the criminal justice system.

“It is important to Mr Thompson when he says ‘I served 16 years in prison, I was not guilty but I was assaulted in custody and this confession was beaten out of me’.”

The judges were told that the lead investigating officer’s account was wrongly believed at the original trial.

Prosecution counsel Ciaran Murphy KC highlighted the lack of medical evidence of any physical injuries to Mr Thompson.

Giving the judgment of the court on Monday, Dame Siobhan said: “We have carefully considered all of the evidence and documents in order to reach our final view.

“It boils down to a very simple fact in that the detective inspector who took the confession was clearly not a man of truth or integrity.

“The detective inspector is a dishonest witness who would not have withstood the scrutiny by the courts in 1975 or now due to his ability to falsify his evidence.

“Having considered all of the evidence, the balance falls in favor of the appellant and we cannot regard the convictions as safe. The convictions will now be quashed.”

Speaking afterwards, Pádraig Ó Muirigh, of Ó Muirigh Solicitors, said: “In this case there was a huge human cost for Mr Thompson and his family.

“Mr Thompson’s alleged admissions should never have been admitted in evidence at his original trial.”

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