ON November 8, 1983, Private Colin Worton and his UDR colleagues were called out by police to do a search on the Moy Road in Armagh. Little did they know that three miles away a man called Adrian Carroll was being murdered by a UVF gunman.
The Crown case was that his UDR colleague Neil Latimer left the search scene to murder Carroll – although Markethill man Colin insists Latimer was with their unit throughout.
“In court it came out that the witness who said Latimer did the shooting saw us arresting him in his civvies in Armagh,” said Colin. “She didn’t name any of us but she knew Latimer. In court it came out that she had gone to police three weeks after the murder and signed blank statements. Another eyewitness said she knew Latimer and was 100 per cent sure it was not him. She bumped into the gunman just before the shooting and he was much shorter than Latimer.”
Colin, then 22, was found by the courts to have been shy and vulnerable. It was not his first tragedy. In 1976 his brother Kenneth, an innocent civilian, was gunned down by the IRA in the Kingsmills massacre.
“When I was arrested the police knew I was very jealous. They told me if I did not plead guilty I would go away for 15-20 years and when I got out I would see my girlfriend walking down the street with someone else’s children. They crossed the line when they asked me so much about my private life. But the judge said they had been astute enough to find out my vulnerabilities in the interview but that this was not to their discredit – that it was part of their job.”
He was deprived of sleep for seven days and went on hunger strike while being questioned. He was acquitted when it came out in court that he had felt under such pressure that he had made a will during police interviews.
But he spent 30 months in jail, which he believes destroyed both his reputation and his life. He went back to the UDR but they told him his services were no longer required and let him go with an exemplary record – but no explanation.
Four of his colleagues were found guilty. Three were later cleared and compensated with £500,000 each but he has no doubts that the fourth man, Neil Latimer, was also innocent, although he served 15 years in jail.
“Those compensated do not have to work if they don’t want to. Most of the guys I served with in the UDR are now in good jobs in security for the court service with decent pensions coming to them. But I am still trying to earn a living as a self-employed window cleaner. I am coming 53 and will be lucky to get a basic state pension.”
He applied for many jobs when the UDR let him go. “People said to me, we will give you a call, but they never did. Even the ‘broo’ officer would not believe my story. I want an apology from David Cameron – he gave one to the Bloody Sunday families. David Ford has said it was an erroneous charge but it is still affecting me today. I can’t get it out of my head.
“My father died without seeing the letter from David Ford which said I was innocent. He lost one son to terrorists at Kingsmills and another was accused of terrorism. My mother is in her 86th year and says she wants to get my name cleared. I am not going to go away.”
On occasions people have even come up to him and congratulated him on the murder – once at his own wedding. However, others crossed the road after he left jail because they did not want to speak to him.
Colin believes that he and his UDR colleagues were deliberately set up in order to protect a police informer. “I was a young guy trying to do my bit for my country and ended up being labelled a terrorist by the people whose backs we were always protecting. You are born with a reputation. If that is taken away from you, you have nothing.”
In 2010 a High Court attempt to win compensation failed. MLAs discussed his case in 2011. Although Sinn Fein were absent, all others backed him, including Tom Elliott, William Irwin, Dominic Bradley, Danny Kennedy, Jim Wells, Alban Maginness, Lord Morrow, Jim Allister and Dolores Kelly. Minister for Justice Mr Ford underlined Colin’s innocence, saying he “is and always has been completely innocent of any implication in the death of Adrian Carroll”.
In 2000 PUP leader David Ervine wrote to the Human Rights Commissioner, Brice Dickinson, to protest his innocence. In 2009 the leaders of the four largest denominations likewise wrote to the Secretary of State.
His case for compensation hangs in the balance. A Department of Justice spokeswoman said yesterday: “The Minister, David Ford, is currently considering Mr Worton’s representations and will come to a conclusion in the next few weeks.”
Mr Cameron’s office referred his case back to the Northern Ireland Office, where a spokeswoman said the case had been considered by successive Secretaries of State, “who determined that further action would not be appropriate”.
First Minister Peter Robinson confirmed yesterday he had highlighted Colin’s campaign previously and that MPs David Simpson and Jeffrey Donaldson have been working on the case and plan to raise it at Westminster.
He added: “The DUP is founded on the principle that everyone is equal under the law and equally subject to the law. Undoubtedly there are many questions regarding fairness when you consider Colin’s case.”
Colin says two Human Rights Commissioners, the Victims Commissioner and campaign group British Irish Rights Watch have also given him support in his campaign.