Northern Ireland

Man found not guilty of 1994 murders of Catholic workmen Eamon Fox and Gary Convie in north Belfast

Gary Convie (left) and Eamon Fox were shot dead by the UVF in 1994.
Gary Convie (left) and Eamon Fox were shot dead by the UVF in 1994. Gary Convie (left) and Eamon Fox were shot dead by the UVF in 1994.

A man has been found not guilty of the murders of Catholic workmen Eamon Fox and Gary Convie in north Belfast in 1994.

James Stewart Smyth, 58 of Forthriver Link in Belfast, was also cleared of one count of attempted murder, possession of a firearm and membership of a proscribed organisation, the UVF.

Mr Convie and Mr Fox were sitting in a parked car at a building site when they were shot dead by a gunman standing in an adjacent playground beside North Queen Street in May 1994.

Delivering his judgment in the non-jury trial at Belfast Crown Court, Mr Justice O’Hara said it could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt that Smyth was the gunman.

The trial last year had heard evidence from former UVF man turned loyalist supergrass Gary Haggarty.

Haggarty was handed a reduced prison sentence after admitting more than 500 terror crimes, including five murders, but he was released from prison in 2018 only four months into the six-and-a-half year term, for providing information about other terrorist suspects.

Beginning his judgment, Mr Justice O’Hara told the court: “The only reason this attack took place was that the men were Catholics.



“In the eyes of the UVF, that was enough to make them targets, and easy targets.”

He said the sole issue to be considered in the case was whether it could be proven beyond reasonable doubt that Smyth had been the gunman who shot Mr Convie and Mr Fox.

However, the judge said he had doubts about DNA evidence presented by the prosecution.

Turning to bad character evidence, the judge pointed out that Smyth had a previous conviction for murder. He said this showed he was “happy to murder Catholics for being Catholics”.

Dealing with the evidence given by Haggarty, the judge said he was a “deeply flawed individual” who had shown he was prepared to lie.

He also said he had difficulty in reconciling some of Haggarty’s evidence with independent evidence.

The judge also said that a number of eyewitnesses had described the gunman as being between 5ft 8in to 5ft 10in in height, while Smyth is 5ft 4in tall.

The judge said he could not be satisfied that Smyth was the gunman and found him not guilty.

However, he said that Smyth did not leave the court without a stain on his character, having been previously convicted of murder.