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1973 murder case: accused gives no evidence in defence

Published 18/01/2013

FINAL submissions have been heard in the case of a loyalist killer accused of the sectarian murder of a second teenager 40 years ago.

Mr Justice Horner, sitting without a jury, reserved judgement yesterday in the trial of Robert James Shaw Rodgers for the 1973 murder of 19-year-old Eileen Doherty, after he refused to give or call evidence in his defence.

Earlier, the Belfast Crown Court judge refused to 'stay' proceedings against Rodgers (59), ruling that despite the time gap he could still get a fair trial.

He also refused to give a 'direction' in case, saying the prosecution evidence at its height could support a conviction by a jury properly directed.

Mr Justice Horner said he would deliver his judgment as soon as possible.

Miss Doherty was shot three times after a taxi taking her back to west Belfast from the Ormeau Road was hijacked by two gunmen sharing the ride on September 30 1973.

Although she and the driver managed initially to escape, the killers caught up with the Catholic teenager at Annadale Embankment and murdered her.

The attack was blamed on the UVF.

In final submissions, prosecution lawyer Gary McCrudden said the court was entitled to draw an adverse inference at Rodgers' refusal to given evidence to the trial.

He said Rodgers, of Tierney Gardens in Belfast, had provided no explanation as to how his two palm prints were found in the hijacked taxi, nor had he given an explanation consistent with innocence during his five inter-views with police.

The lawyer accepted the evidence was circumstantial but claimed it was a strong case.

Defence QC Gregg Berry claimed the prosecution case was a crumbling edifice as there was no evidence to say when the palm prints were deposited.

In addition, other unidentified prints were recovered.

Rodgers, who was convicted in 1975 of the sectarian murder of an 18-year-old man shot dead in north Belfast the previous year, was released on continuing bail.

■ MURDERED: Eileen Doherty

PICTURE: Pacemaker