Hyde Park `bomber' wins appeal

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The Independent Online
AN IRISHMAN jailed as the "master bomb-maker" behind the 1982 Hyde Park bombing in central London that killed four soldiers had his conviction quashed yesterday.

But controversially the three Court of Appeal judges stressed that their ruling did not mean that Danny McNamee, who spent 11 years in jail, was innocent of the charge.

Mr McNamee, 38, from Crossmaglen, South Armagh, who was sentenced to 25 years for his alleged part in the bombing which killed four members of the Household Cavalry and seven horses, was the first person convicted of a terrorist offence in England to be freed early under the Good Friday Agreement.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal ruled that his conviction for conspiracy to cause explosions was unsafe.

However, the judges also announced that it did "not at all follow" that he was innocent of the charge "or that he has served 11 years imprisonment for a crime which it has been found that he did not commit".

Lord Justice Swinton Thomas, sitting with Mr Justice Garland and Mr Justice Longmore, said that on the totality of the evidence against Mr McNamee, the prosecution had made out a "strong case" at his 1987 Old Bailey trial that he was guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions.

But the judges concluded that the conviction was unsafe because "we cannot be sure that the jury would have reached the conclusion that they were sure of guilt" if they had heard the fresh evidence raised during the recent appeal hearing.

The fresh material before the court had related to fingerprints that belonged to convicted bomb-maker Desmond Ellis, which Mr McNamee's lawyers said seriously undermined the Crown's case against their client.

After the court's ruling, Mr McNamee, surrounded by family and supporters said: "Of course I'm vindicated. It's proved I was not guilty, even in a really grudging way."

He said the judges had to be dragged kicking and screaming into delivering the ruling. "You would have thought they were interested in why the false case was brought, but the fact is they do not care," he said.

Hugging and kissing well-wishers he confirmed he would be seeking compensation for his time spent in jail. He added: "It was important to show what had been done. The prosecution had presented a completely false case against me."

In their 36-page written judgment, delivered following a 13-day hearing, the judges ruled that there had been a failure to disclose relevant evidence at Mr McNamee's trial and this amounted to a "material irregularity".

During the hearing, Mr McNamee's counsel, Michael Mansfield QC, said that Desmond Ellis was the source of a "significant proportion" of the fingerprints found on bomb making devices.

Mr Mansfield revealed that circuit boards with identical "art-work" to those which had formed such a significant part of the case against Mr McNamee had been found in the possession of Ellis in 1981, but had not been disclosed at the trial.

Lord Justice Swinton Thomas said that the court had not given a ruling on whether vital information had been deliberately withheld from the original trial.