Northern Ireland

Alleged Continuity IRA leader named in Carroll murder trial

Constable Stephen Carroll
Image caption Constable Stephen Carroll was killed in March 2009

A man has been named in Belfast Crown Court as the leader of the Continuity IRA in Craigavon.

It happened during the trial of two men accused of murdering Constable Stephen Carroll.

Constable Carroll was the first PSNI officer to be murdered when he was shot dead in Craigavon in March 2009.

A detective said a decision was taken not to arrest the alleged dissident leader in order to protect a key prosecution witness - Witness M.

He denied claims that the alleged Continuity IRA leader - named by a defence lawyer as Eddie Breen - was an informer.

Brendan McConville, 40, from Aldervale, Tullygally and John Paul Wootton, 20, of Collindale, Lurgan, deny murdering Constable Carroll.

Witness M has said he spotted 40-year-old Mr McConville at the scene shortly before the shooting.

He told the police that he was 90% sure he had seen Mr Breen with Mr McConville, but later changed that to being 50% sure.

It emerged that Mr Breen was arrested 11 months after the killing and later released.

Witness M also said he was threatened to "keep his mouth shut", and Belfast Crown Court heard claims on Thursday that these threats were carried out by Mr Breen.

Mr Breen was not rearrested after Witness M told the police about the threats.

When asked why, the detective leading the investigation said arresting him would have put Witness M's family in grave danger.

He denied allegations that the police were protecting Mr Breen because he was an informer.

Accused of lying

Earlier, the defence lawyer accused Witness M of deliberately lying to the court.

Giving evidence by videolink, Witness M told the court in Belfast on Wednesday that he saw Mr McConville standing close to where the prosecution claims the gun was fired 30 minutes later.

He said he had been out walking his dog at the time.

He told the court he had no problems with his eyesight and only wears glasses as a fashion accessory.

However, it has since emerged that he is short sighted and on Thursday in court, he admitted needing glasses for reading.

When asked why he lied under oath he replied: "I didn't."

The barrister asked: "How many lies do you have to tell as you go along... you say the person I represent was close to the scene of a murder."

Witness M replied: "Some things like that you don't forget."

Under cross examination the man also revealed that he was treated by a psychologist and was about £11,000 in debt before he entered the witness protection programme.

The court heard that the PSNI pays Witness M £1,400 a month via the programme. They also cover his child care costs and his accommodation.

The trial continues.

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