LOYALIST KILLER TO APPEAL SECTARIAN MURDER CONVICTION

Loyalist killer Bobby Rodgers appeals conviction for murdering Eileen Doherty

Loyalist killer Bobby Rodgers appeals conviction for murdering Eileen Doherty

A LOYALIST has launched an appeal to overturn his conviction for a sectarian murder 40 years ago.

Lawyers for Bobby Rodgers plan to challenge the decision to let a later killing feature in his trial brought by ‘Waking The Dead’ detectives.

The 59-year-old was found guilty earlier this year of joint enterprise to the murder of 19-year-old Eileen Doherty in September 1973.

Ms Doherty was shot three times after her taxi was hijacked by gunmen in south Belfast.

She was returning home to the west of the city from a visit to her fiancé when the killing was carried out.

Rodgers, of Tierney Gardens, Belfast, was charged following a review of available evidence by the Historical Inquiries Team (HET).

He denied the murder but was convicted following a non-jury trial earlier this year.

A judge ruled there could be no possible innocent explanation for Rodgers’ palm prints being found inside the hijacked taxi.

Although not suspected of firing the fatal shots, he was found guilty of a joint enterprise to murder.

Lawyers for Rodgers are focusing on the admission of bad character evidence relating to a subsequent shooting a year after the Doherty killing, for which he was found guilty.

Rodgers has already served 17 years in prison for the killing of a Catholic man.

Ciaran McElroy, 18, was shot a number of times in September 1974 on Park End Street, Belfast.

Eileen Doherty was shot dead by loyalists in Belast in 1973

Eileen Doherty was shot dead by loyalists in Belast in 1973

The Belfast man’s legal team will also contest the palm print evidence used during his trial for the conviction related to the murder of Catholic teenager Eileen Doherty.

Judges today listed the case for a two-day hearing in September.

Despite receiving a 16-year sentence for Ms Doherty’s murder, Rodgers could be freed after two years and two months under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Any convictions for murders carried out before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 carry a maximum sentence of 26 months.

However, Rodgers’ lawyers have launched further legal moves aimed at securing an earlier release.

They are pressing ahead with a bid to have him freed under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.

That was also listed in the Court of Appeal today.

Following confirmation of the appeals, Rodgers’ solicitor, Kevin Winters of Kevin Winters & Co, outlined his concerns about the case.

He said: “At trial the court allowed in bad character evidence in relation to an incident a year later. We say that needs challenged.

“We also have major concerns about the print evidence used in this case, given that material in relation to it has since been destroyed or gone missing.”

Mr Winters was accompanied by William ‘Plum’ Smith, a loyalist involved with ex-prisoners’ project EPIC, who claimed Rodgers suffered “a gross miscarriage of justice”.

Mr Smith added: “Recent decisions made in the courts lends substance to the belief that the Protestant community have been treated unequally.”

 

 

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