01 Feb 2011A SOUTH Armagh man who allegedly fled to America following the abduction of Captain Robert Nairac has gone on trial for his murder in Belfast.
Kevin Crilly appeared in the dock yesterday accused of driving the car which took the undercover army officer from a bar in Dromintee to his death in Ravensdale, Co Louth, in May 1977.Robert Nairac
Hairs found in a car said to belong to Crilly had been “forcibly removed” from the head of Captain Nairac, Belfast Crown Court heard.
The 60-year-old Co Armagh man is alleged to have gone on the run to the US for over 27 years before returning to live in Jonesborough.
Prosecuting QC Terence Mooney told the court that Kevin Crilly allegedly confessed to a BBC documentary team under his birth name Declan Power that he had a “minimal” involvement in the murder of the Grenadier Guardsman in a Co Louth field in the Republic.
Mr Mooney also told trial judge Mr Justice McLaughlin that while this was a case “resonant with echoes of a dark past”, it also “illustrates that the passage of time will not absolve the crimes of those charged with grievous offences”.
“There is no statute of limitations in this jurisdiction,” added Mr Mooney, who said that once the court applies the rule of law on the evidence it will conclude “that this accused is guilty of the offences with which he stands charged”.
Crilly, from Lowerfoughill Road, Jonesborough, denies the murder of Capt Nairac between May 13 and 16, 1977 and “associated charges” which will be detailed to the court later, but involved the abduction and holding of the soldier.
The prosecution claim following the abduction of Capt Nairac from the Three Steps Inn at Dromintee in south Armagh, Crilly, then aged 26, went and picked up the gunman Liam Townson, later convicted by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin.
He allegedly drove him to the humpback bridge in the townland of Flurry Bridge, Ravensdale Forest in Co Louth where, according to Townson’s confession, he “put one into the head” of Capt Nairac, whom he described as “a brave soldier who told us nothing”.
Earlier, Mr Mooney said that when Capt Nairac, attached to Staff HQ, left his Bessbrook Mill army base in south Armagh shortly before 10pm on May 14, 1977, he informed his Operations Officer only that he intended going to the Three Steps Inn.
Mr Mooney added that “neither the task he intended to perform at the Three Steps Inn, nor his reason for going there, is known, and very probably will remain a mystery”.
The court also heard that having signalled his arrival at the bar using a radio phone hidden in his Triumph Dolimite car, “he was not heard of nor seen by his colleagues again”.
His car, with its driver’s door wing mirror broken, together with blood-stained stones and gravel, were found in the pub car park after the alarm was raised in the early hours of May 15 when Capt Nairac failed to return to base.
Not far away, just over the border in the townland of Flurry Bridge, Gardai, by a humpback bridge, recovered samples of blood and clumps of human hair and the core of a bullet.
Mr Mooney claimed that there was a “strong inference that an assault occurred at Flurry Bridge which caused the forceful removal of human hair and caused some person to bleed at that point and other areas nearby”.
A fortnight after the solider’s disappearance, and Crilly’s, police later seized his Ford Cortina car. In the back footwell a clump of 650 “forcefully” removed hairs were recovered. These hairs, together with the other hair samples and the blood stains, were later attributed to Capt Nairac.
Mr Mooney claimed that Crilly disappeared on May 15, within an hour of being questioned by officers during which he admitted being in the Three Steps Inn the night before, and that the Ford Cortina belonged to him.
The lawyer further claimed that Crilly was named by others later convicted of involvement in Capt Nairac’s disappearance, as the driver of the kidnap car and that he picked up the gunman.
Mr Mooney said that in June 2007, “30 years and one month” later, the BBC broadcast, The Hunt for Captain Nairac.
In the “Spotlight” documentary, which will be played to the court, the lawyer claimed Crilly, who’d been adopted as a child, used his birth name of Declan Power, telling reporters he’d been on the run for 27 years living in the US before returning home.
Mr Mooney also claimed that Crilly, aka Power, admitted that on the night the captain disappeared, he was at the bar where there was a ‘bit of a battle outside” and that he “regretted what happened that night”.
He also allegedly confessed to getting the gunman and that he went on the run because he “figured I was going to go to jail”, although he himself described his role as “minimal, minimal”.
Mr Mooney claimed that Crilly “is guilty because he willingly joined in the enterprise to abduct and kill Capt Nairac and he intended that result”.
Alternatively, he added, if the court was not satisfied Crilly, with others, intended to kill him, he was nevertheless guilty “as a secondary party to an enterprise in which he realised that one of the participants might kill the Captain with that intention”.
The case continues today.