No-one should be jailed on the word of a key witness against one of the two men convicted of a police murder, his father told a court yesterday.
The man claimed he was “99 per cent sure” his son gave a wrong account of his movements on the night Constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead.
He described how his son was known in the family as a Walter Mitty-type character and said: “He actually believes his own lies.”
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was called to give evidence at the appeal hearing by Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton.
Both men are challenging their convictions for murdering Constable Carroll.
The PSNI officer was ambushed and shot dead as he responded to a 999 call at Lismore Manor, Craigavon in March 2009.
McConville, of Glenholme Avenue in the town, is serving at least a 25-year sentence for the murder.
Wootton, from Lurgan, received a minimum 14-year term.
Central to the prosecution case was the evidence of a man identified only as Witness M who claimed to have seen McConville in the area around the time of the killing.
With this man’s father having made a statement branding his son a liar, defence lawyers allege he was arrested earlier this year and held by police in a bid to sabotage their case.
He was ordered to attend the Court of Appeal to be questioned about his assessment of his son and about a covert surveillance operation said to have been carried out at his home.
He told a panel of judges that his home, phone and car were all bugged.
The man claimed that while in custody police tried to get him to retract everything in his affidavit.
Asked by Barry Macdonald QC, for McConville, if he was prepared to do that he replied: “No, it was the truth.
“I didn’t want to see anybody in prison on the word of my son because I know what he’s like.”
He told the court he had not been coerced, threatened or forced into signing his statement.
Under cross-examination by Ciaran Murphy QC, for the prosecution, he said it was not possible for his son to have made the journey he described on the night of the shooting.
Pressed further on that point, he added: “I’m 99 per cent sure.”
The man told how he binned one mobile phone after discovering it was bugged during a call which felt “like an explosion”.
Another device discovered in the boot of his car was thrown down the toilet, he said.
He reiterated that he did not feel pressure to give evidence, but agreed that one meeting had been “hot and heavy”.
The court heard of an incident at his home which led to him relocating.
The hearing continues today.