Man jailed for IRA murders is freed

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Clapping and cheering broke out in the Court of Appeal in Belfast yesterday as 39-year-old Patrick Kane was cleared of involvement in the murder of two Army corporals in Belfast in 1988.

Kane himself was not in court to hear the verdict as the prison van bringing him from the Maze was held up in traffic. But his elderly parents Barney and Maureen were hugged by their other children as they waited for him to arrive.

"It's the happiest day of my life," said Mrs Kane, from Tullymore Walk, Andersonstown, West Belfast. "We waited eight years for this day and I just can't wait to take my big son home."

When Kane eventually arrived he was mobbed by relatives and friends who called out: "You're free Paddy, you're free." Overcome with emotion he said: "I just kept hoping and praying that this day would come. It is thanks to my legal team that I am standing here. But there are two other men, Mickey Timmons and Sean Kelly, who should be here with me."

Kane was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1990 along with Timmons and Kelly for aiding and abetting the murders of Corporals Derek Wood and David Howes during an IRA funeral.

It was alleged they were in a sports ground where the soldiers were beaten and stripped before being taken away and shot by the IRA. They lost their appeals, but Kane's case was referred back to the Appeal Court by former Ulster Secretary Lord Mayhew after campaigners raised doubts about his confession. Lord Justice McCollum said yesterday that the three appeal judges had found that new evidence from a Norwegian forensic psychologist, Dr Gisli Gudjonsson, would have influenced Kane's original trial if it had been available.

Kane was said to have the mind of an 11-year-old child and during the appeal last month the judges ruled that Dr Gudjonsson's view of his mental and psychological state was relevant and admissible. "The court has come to the conclusion that if the trial judge had had the benefit of hearing it then it would have had a considerable influence on his consideration of the admissibility and reliability of the confessions made by the appellant," said Lord Justice McCollum.