Whitemoor: QC promises more proof

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Michael Mansfield QC, the defence barrister who last week alleged involvement of guards at Whitemoor prison in the escape of five IRA prisoners and an armed robber, yesterday said he would be handing "new evidence" on the case to Michael Howard, the Home Secretary.

Pointing to involvement of "forces" who wanted to ensure the IRA ceasefire of 1994 would not work, Mr Mansfield was replying to critics who urged him to deliver any new information. These include Mr Howard and Sir John Woodcock, who conducted an inquiry into the Whitemoor break-out.

After the collapse of the second trial of the prisoners last week, the Conservative MP Ian Bruce increased pressure on Mr Howard to order a new review when he demanded a police investigation into suggestions of a link between the break-out and a missing prison guard.

Mr Bruce demanded that the Home Office look into the disappearance of Peter Curran, an officer at the Cambridgeshire jail. "Mr Curran's disappearance ... could be connected with the break-out. There were things going on he may have been privy to."

Last night police said they were independently reviewing their file on Mr Curran and that there had never been evidence to suggest he had been killed or committed suicide. Two days before he was last seen in March 1995 he was suspended; he had allegedly been supplying toiletries to prisoners. Yesterday his wife, Christine, who contacted Mr Bruce, told the BBC: "I refuse to believe the Prison Service ... have not considered the far-reaching implications of corruption being uncovered which may in turn lead to the discovery of something very serious having happened to him."

The death of another officer, Marcia Whitehurst, also raised concern. She died last week when her car left the road near Wisbech. She had been going to the trial in Greenwich. Police confirmed they were treating it as "a routine fatal accident".

Last week, after the second collapse of the escape trial, again following prejudicial publicity, Mr Mansfield said key questions remained unanswered. Evidence from cameras around Whitemoor's perimeter had never been found. The missing time pointed to collusion of officers. He said the prisoners did not have time to cut the fencing without alarms being set off; the wire must have been cut for them.

Paul Magee, 48, Gilbert McNamee, 36, Liam O'Duibhir, 34, Peter Sherry, 31, and Liam McCotter, 33, and the armed robber Andrew Russell, 34, were charged with breaking out and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life and with intent to break prison. They escaped in September 1994 and were recaptured within two hours.

Last night Mr Mansfield said he would be supplying Mr Howard with new evidence. "It's a simple deduction from a sequence of events." Citing confidentiality, he declined to reveal whether the prisoners had made claims about others being involved. Mr Mansfield said the break-out happened less than a fortnight after the IRA called its now defunct ceasefire on August 31, 1994. "There are forces that don't want the ceasefire to work, behind the scenes. This may have been a way to scupper it."