Northern Ireland

Fresh Gerry Conlon investigation turned down by English police

Gerry Conlon
Gerry Conlon

English police have refused a request by the family of Gerry Conlon, who was wrongly accused of the Guildford pub bombings, for a fresh investigation.

The Guildford Four, which included Mr Conlon, Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson, were falsely accused of two pub bombings in Guildford in October 1974 that killed four British soldiers and a civilian.

They were released in 1989 after 15 years behind bars.

Members of an IRA unit – the ‘Balcombe Street Gang’ – later confirmed they were responsible but were never charged.

Mr Conlon’s father Guiseppe Conlon, who was a member of the Maguire Seven, died in an English jail in 1980 aged 56.

The ‘Maguire Seven’ were all convicted but were also later proven to be innocent of involvement in any part of the attack.

On his release from prison Mr Conlon became a campaigner for others who were the victims of miscarriages of justice and died in June 2014.

In 2017 Richard O’Rawe, the author of In the Name of the Son: The Gerry Conlon Story, examined files linked to an inquiry carried out by Sir John May.

He says that in 1975 a forensic expert made a statement linking the Woolwich pub bomb, which killed two people in November 1974, to other attacks at the time.

The writer said this statement was not disclosed to the defence during the Guildford Four’s trial.

Mr O’Rawe added that the files also show that before the Balcombe Street Gang’s trial in 1977, prosecutors asked the forensic expert to redraft his statement omitting any reference to Woolwich.

Kevin Winters of KRW Law, who acts for Mr Conlon’s sister Bridie Brennan, had asked the PSNI and police in England to investigate the circumstances around the arrest, investigation, prosecution and conviction of Mr Conlon and the subsequent appeals.

In a response from the Specialist Crime Command at Surrey and Sussex Police, which undertakes complex investigations on behalf of both police forces, the request was turned down.

They said some of the points raised were explored during the Sir John May Inquiry, which examined the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven cases.

The correspondence also pointed out that three officers from Surrey Constabulary were subsequently prosecuted and acquitted and that police are also cooperating with an inquest into the pub bombing.

“In light of all of the above I do not believe the further criminal investigation suggested would be either necessary or proportionate,” a senior officer wrote.

Mr Winters said last night: “The family of Gerry Conlon are still left in the dark as to the decision-making 45 years ago,” he said.

“The inquest is not going to deliver results on that.”

A spokeswoman for Surrey Police said: “Surrey Police received a request from KRW Law on behalf of the Conlon family to open a new investigation into the circumstances into the 1974 Guildford pub bombing.

“We responded directly to the family’s legal representation thoroughly outlining our reasons why this request was not able to be met. We have no further comment at this time.”

A spokeswoman for the PSNI said: “This matter does not sit within the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s jurisdiction and, as such, is not part of the Legacy Investigation Branch’s case sequencing model.

“Any queries should be directed to the appropriate UK police service.”