Man found not guilty of murdering abducted undercover SAS officer
Published 02/04/2011 | 05:00
A man has been cleared of murdering undercover British SAS soldier Robert Nairac.
Kevin Crilly (60) walked free from Belfast Crown Court yesterday after being found not guilty of the May 1977 killing.
Captain Nairac was an intelligence officer who was abducted outside a bar in south Armagh at the height of the conflict and whisked across the border, where he was believed to have been shot dead in a remote forest. His body has never been found.
Mr Justice Richard McLaughlin said: "I have concluded that the prosecution has not proved Crilly was a participant in the abduction."
As well as the murder charge, Mr Crilly was cleared of four other charges, including kidnapping and false imprisonment.
The judge said that while it was clear Mr Crilly, from Lower Foughill Road, Jonesborough, was present on the night of the abduction and had picked up the man who murdered Capt Nairac, Liam Townson, it had not been proved that he knew what was about to happen.
"The prosecution has not proved beyond reasonable doubt the state of knowledge or intention necessary to transform the transporting of (Liam) Townson (who was convicted of the murder) by Crilly to an unspecified place at an unspecified time into a knowing participation in a potential murder," the judge said.
Mauritius-born Grenadier Guardsman Capt Nairac was Oxford-educated and had undergone survival training in Kenya before volunteering to go to Northern Ireland.
On the night he was abducted, Capt Nairac left his Bessbrook Mill base intending to be back before midnight from the pub which is known for its traditional music. His superiors last heard from him by radio just before he walked into the Three Steps Inn.
The judge said that after Capt Nairac was taken in the pub's car park, he was brought to Ravensdale Forest in Co Louth.
"He was attacked in the car park of the inn so he could not get into his car either to use the radio hidden therein or to use it to escape," he said.
He was badly beaten and left bleeding freely, the judge added.
Mr Crilly, then aged 26, picked up gunman Townson who was later convicted of the killing by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin.
The prosecution case centred on hairs similar to that of the victim's which were found in Crilly's Ford Cortina and at the murder scene.
Investigators found a clump of hairs in the car but nothing connected Crilly with the car on the night in question.
Crilly was asked about the killing by BBC 'Spotlight' journalists in 2007.
Mr Justice McLaughlin added: "The admissions by Crilly to the journalists from the 'Spotlight' programme prove he was involved to some degree in the events surrounding the death of Captain Nairac.
"He was present at the Three Steps Inn where what he described as a battle took place. This can only mean what he witnessed was the abduction of Captain Nairac, but it does not prove his active participation in it."
The evidence did not prove where Capt Nairac was while Mr Crilly went to collect Townson or when he dropped him off, nor does it establish when or by whom the decision was made to kill him.
Mr Crilly later disappeared, and the Cortina was not seized for another two weeks.
Mr Crilly lived in the US for almost 30 years after the murder.