Former Sunday World reporter 'stands over' articles he wrote about former Premiership footballer
Published 24/06/2015 | 17:28
JOURNALIST Mick McCaffrey told the High Court he "stands over" articles he wrote saying former Premiership footballer David Speedie associated with criminals.
While he never said Mr Speedie was a criminal, it was true to say he associated with a gangland figure, Mr McCaffrey said.
"I did not say he was a criminal but that he was associated with Ritchie Thompson, a senior member of Fat Freddy Thompson's gang", he said.
He was being cross-examined on the second day of an action against the Sunday World over two articles in April 2011 which Mr Speedie says defamed him because they falsely meant he was engaged in criminal activity, was involved in smuggling or transportation of drugs and had links to gangland crime.
He is suing the paper's publishers, Sunday Newspapers Ltd, editor Colm McGinty and Mr McCaffrey who wrote the stories. The defendants deny defamation and plead that the words in the articles were true.
Mr Speedie claims they caused him to lose work as a TV and radio football pundit, to be humiliated and depressed and fearful for his life because they associated him with mobster Freddy Thompson who was involved in a feud which had claimed 16 lives.
Mr Speedie, who played for a number of top clubs including Liverpool and Chelsea, claims the articles had "ruined my life".
A judge and jury has been told his fiancée is a sister of a woman married to Ritchie Thompson, Freddy Thompson's older brother.
Under cross examination earlier today, Mr Speedie claimed most of what he had been quoted as saying in the articles had been made up.
While he had a phone conversation with Mr McCaffrey, he would not speak about personal matters with someone he did not know. As soon as the journalist started talking about Freddy Thompson, he told him to "f... off" and put down the phone.
"He (McCaffrey) is well wrong and he knows it, sat there, he knows he is a liar".
Mr McCaffey "had made up" much of the notes in order to "write a load of crap" which had put in danger his life and that of his fiancee and others.
He did not associate with criminals and drug dealers and said his circle of friends were nice people.
"I did not tell anybody I associated with Freddy Thompson, and people getting murdered over it - you would have to be off your banana," he told the court.
Kevan Smith, who first met Mr Speedie when the played together at Darlington FC 35 years ago, said when he first heard about the Sunday World articles associating him with drug dealers, he considered them to be "laughable" as David was not just anti-drugs but anti-smoking.
In his evidence, Mr McCaffrey, who is now news editor with UTV Ireland, said he got a lot of information directly from the conversation he had with Mr Speedie when he rang him on April 8, 2011.
He said he did not get a chance to ask him many questions as "he was happy to talk and talked away".
He said: "I got the impression, he was happy to get it off his chest and he was happy to give information, information which I had not known of beforehand".
The contemporaneous note he took reflected the conversation and what he wrote in the paper.
Asked by his counsel, Oisin Quinn, what was his response to the claim he fabricated the notes, he said he "could not believe it to be honest" especially as Mr Speedie's solicitor had acknowledged they were not made up.
Under cross-examination by Mark Harty SC, for Mr Speedie, he said he had not put a date and time on his notes because "I just never have".
Mr McCaffrey declined to name sources of information he had before he rang Mr Speedie and started asking him about being stopped by gardai on a number of occasions.
Asked if he had phone records to show the conversation with Mr Speedie had lasted 11 minutes, as Mr McCaffrey had claimed, he said those records were probably available but he did not have them as he never received phone bills which were paid directly by the Sunday World.
The hearing continues.