Northern Ireland

Soldiers 'bugged' car owned by Stephen Carroll murder accused

Constable Stephen Paul Carroll, 48, was from Banbridge
Image caption Constable Stephen Carroll, 48, was the first police officer to be killed since the formation of the PSNI

Undercover soldiers were secretly bugging a car owned by one of two men accused of murdering policeman Stephen Carroll, a court has heard.

A prosecution lawyer said an electronic tracking device had been hidden in the car belonging to John Paul Wootton.

Former Sinn Fein councillor Brendan McConville, 40, and Mr Wootton, 20, deny murder and possession of an AK47 assault rifle.

Constable Carroll, 48, was shot dead on 9 March 2009.

At the time, dissident republicans, the Continuity IRA, claimed they were responsible for the shooting.

Counsel for the prosecution made his opening statement on Monday afternoon, saying DNA and other evidence could link the two to the murder.

He said the terrorists' plan was to kill any policeman in Craigavon after smashing a window in a private house, knowing that the PSNI would respond.

THe barrister said that a gunman shot Constable Carroll from a distance of 50 metres with an AK47 rifle as he drove his car into Lismore Manor, Craigavonn.

He said that Mr Wootton's car was parked close to the scene of the attack and drove off within minutes of the killing.

He said that Mr McConville's DNA was found on a brown jacket removed from the boot of the car and he claimed gun residue was also discovered on the coat.

Image caption Constable Carroll was murdered after answering a 999 call

He said that it was believed the murder weapon, which was later recovered from under an oil tank in a house in the Pinebank area of Craigavon, had been wrapped in the jacket.

He also alleged that gun residue was found on another coat discovered in a search of Mr McConville's house at Glenholm Avenue, Lurgan.

The prosecution lawyer revealed that a witness known only as 'M' would give evidence that he saw Mr McConville close to the scene of the shooting shortly before the attack.

He also said that another witness would tell the trial that a GPS (global tracking system) had been put into Wootton's car sometime prior to the shooting.

It logged the position of the car at pre-determined intervals, said Mr Murphy.

After the shooting, the witness went to the police station where the car was taken after Mr Wootton's arrest.

He said the witness took out the device and put it into storage while he went on leave but on his return he discovered the data about the car's movements for three hours after the attack had been removed from the hard-drive.

However, he said that experts had been able to find data to establish the car's movements before the shooting and he claimed it was clear that Mr Wootton's Citroen had been used to give logistical support to the killers.

'Paramilitary uniform'

He said that after police seized a computer belonging to Mr Wootton, references were found on it to a group calling themselves Craigavon Republican Youth who said they aimed to remove "the British occupation from Ireland".

A photograph was found on Mr Wootton's mobile phone showing him dressed in paramilitary uniform, it was claimed.

The prosecution lawyer said that another witness would tell the court that Mr Wootton tried to get him to give him the address of his girlfriend, whose father was a policeman.

He said that during 43 interviews, Mr McConville refused to answer detectives' questions but read out a statement saying he'd never been a member of any proscribed organisations and that he didn't own the coat which police found in Mr Wootton's car.

He said Mr Wootton was interviewed 37 times by police but didn't make any reply. He claimed each of the two accused had taken part in the pre-planned attack undoubtedly with the help of others.

Constable Carroll was the first police officer to be killed since the formation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

He was a married man with children from the Banbridge area of County Down. He had served in the police force for more than 24 years.

John Paul Wooton's mother, Sharon, 39, denies perverting the course of justice by removing a computer.

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