Workmen murder charges withdrawn over supergrass delay

Eamon Fox was one of two workmen murdered in north Belfast in 1994
Eamon Fox was one of two workmen murdered in north Belfast in 1994

All charges have been withdrawn against two men accused of the double murder of Catholic workmen 21 years ago.

Prosecutors told Belfast Magistrates’ Court that current criminal proceedings against Mark Campbell and James Smyth were to be ended on a without prejudice basis.

It means the pair remain subject to a future report and could yet go on trial for killing Gary Convie and Eamon Fox in the north of the city back in May 1994.

Legal sources claimed the development was due to the delay in progressing a linked case against a so-called loyalist supergrass charged with more than 200 offences.

Mr Convie and Mr Fox were gunned down as they sat eating lunch in a car at a building site on North Queen Street.

Campbell, 43, of Canning Place, Belfast, and 49-year-old Smyth, from Forthriver Link in the city, were also jointly charged with attempting to murder a third man, Donal Laverty, in the same attack and possessing a Sten sub-machine gun and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

They were arrested and charged last year by detectives investigating a campaign of murder and serious crime committed by the UVF.

The case is connected to ongoing criminal proceedings against Gary Haggarty, an alleged UVF commander-turned assisting offender.

Haggarty, 43, is facing a record 212 charges, including five counts of murder, six attempted murders, 31 conspiracies to murder, four kidnappings, six false imprisonments and five hijackings.

Around 10,000 pages of evidence has been amassed in the case against him – much of it believed to be based on his own police interviews.

Back in January 2010 he agreed to become an assisting offender under the terms of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

But efforts to have Haggarty returned for trial have been repeatedly put on hold as his legal team battles to gain full access to his interview material.

At previous hearings a lawyer for Campbell and Smyth claimed their case could be delayed by up to two years due to the reliance on evidence from the supergrass.

The two defendants were in court as District Judge George Conner was told of the decision to withdraw all charges against them without prejudice to any future prosecution.

The case against them can still be resurrected by the alternative process of an indictable summons.

Outside court their solicitor John Greer welcomed the development.

He said: “It’s clear that any prosecution that relies on the evidence of Gary Haggarty is fraught with difficulties.”