Guildford Four’s Gerry Conlon dies aged 60
- theguardian.com, Saturday 21 June 2014 12.46 BST
Gerry Conlon, one of four people wrongly convicted of carrying out theIRA bombing of a Guildford pub in 1974, has died.
Conlon, 60, who passed away overnight in his Falls Road, Belfast home after a long fight with cancer, spent 15 years in English jails for a crime he was innocent of, the bombing of the Horse and Groom pub, which killed five people and injured another 65.
He and two other Belfast men – Paul Hill and Paddy Armstrong – and Carole Richardson, an English woman, were jailed after police fabricated confessions. It was one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice in British legal history.
Conlon’s father Guiseppe Conlon was among the Maguire Seven, which included Conlon’s aunt Annie who were arrested after being falsely accused of taking part in the same IRA bombing campaign in southern England in the mid 1970s. Guiseppe Conlon was jailed in 1975 and died in prison five years later from ill-health.
The Guildford Four were released in 1989 but they did not receive an official apology for the miscarriage of justice until 16 years later, when then prime minister Tony Blair said sorry in a TV recording from his Commons office.
After finally gaining his freedom, Conlon underwent psychiatric treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, suffering nightmares and flashbacks about his time in prison. He suffered two breakdowns, attempted suicide and became addicted to drugs and alcohol to «block out the memories» following his release.
Writing for the Guardian in 2009, Conlon vividly described his ordeal during his wrongful imprisonment: «It is still hard to describe what it is like to be facing a life sentence for something you did not do. For the first two years, I still had a little bit of hope. I would hear the jangling of keys and think that this was the time the prison officers were going to come and open the cell door and set us free. But after the Maguire Seven (all also wrongly convicted) – my father among them – were arrested, we started to lose that hope.
«Not only did we have to beat the criminal justice system but we also had to survive in prison. Our reality was that nightmare. They would urinate in our food, defecate in it, put glass in it. Our cell doors would be left open for us to be beaten and they would come in with batteries in socks to beat us over the head. I saw two people murdered. I saw suicides. I saw somebody set fire to himself in Long Lartin prison.»
Gerry and Guiseppe Conlon’s story was turned into the acclaimed 1993 film ‘In The Name of the Father’, directed by Jim Sheridan and starring Oscar-winner Daniel Day Lewis.
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