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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 March, 2003, 15:40 GMT
Loyalist guilty of taxi murder
Michael McGoldrick
Michael McGoldrick was shot dead in July 1996
A County Armagh man has been convicted of the murder of Catholic taxi driver Michael McGoldrick in 1996.

Clifford McKeown, 44, from Craigavon was said to have confessed to a journalist that he shot the father-of-two.

It took place at the height of the Drumcree stand-off over an Orange Order parade in July 1996.

The court heard the killing had been a "birthday present" for the then Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright, who was later murdered by the INLA in the Maze Prison.

McKeown will be sentenced next month.

He is already serving 12 years imprisonment for possessing guns.

Mr Justice Weatherup said on Thursday he was "satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant made the confession to (journalist) Nick Martin Clark, and that the confession is reliable and that it represents a true account of the defendant's involvement in the murder".

Nothing will bring Michael back - nothing replaces what we lost.
Sadie McGoldrick

During the trial, the court heard Mr McGoldrick was murdered after plans to kidnap three priests from a parochial house in County Armagh were aborted.

McKeown, from Parkmore in Craigavon, was said to have told the journalist that he, along with Billy Wright and another LVF man, Mark Fulton, discussed the plan to kidnap three Catholic priests and shoot them if Orangemen were not allowed to walk down the Garvaghy Road.

Mr McGoldrick's body was found in his cab in a country lane at Aghagallon, several miles from Lurgan, a day after he had picked up a fare in the town.

He had been shot five times in the head.

'Shot in bed'

The court heard McKeown, who had been waiting in another car, opened the back door of the taxi and fired four times into Mr McGoldrick's head.

He then fired one final shot to "finish him off", Belfast Crown Court heard.

After the guilty verdict was delivered, the victim's father, Michael McGoldrick Snr, said he felt no bitterness towards his son's killer.

"The hurt in our country has to stop," he said.

"At the time I forgave those that murdered Michael and I still forgive them."

McKeown is a former loyalist "supergrass" (informer).

Clifford McKeown
Clifford McKeown will be sentenced at a later date
His brother Trevor was convicted of killing 18-year-old Catholic Bernadette Martin, who was shot in bed at her Protestant boyfriend's home in Aghalee, County Antrim in July 1997.

At that trial in June 1999, Trevor McKeown was found guilty of possessing the .22 Spanish Star pistol used to murder Ms Martin.

It was the same gun used to murder Michael McGoldrick.

Speaking outside the court on Thursday, Mr McGoldrick's widow Sadie said nothing would bring Michael back.

"Nothing replaces what we lost. I would like to thank all the witnesses involved in the case and for what they put themselves through," she said.

"I would like to thank our family and friends for their support."

Detective Inspector Ian Monteith said he welcomed the guilty verdict.

"I don't see it as a day of celebration," he said.

"My thoughts are very much with the McGoldrick family, because regardless of the sentence Clifford is going to receive for being convicted of this horrendous murder, the real life sentence has been served by the McGoldrick family."




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Julia Paul:
"McKeown said he'd shot Mr McGoldrick as a birthday present for Billy Wright"



SEE ALSO:
Man murdered 'after priest plot failed'
07 Jan 03 |  Northern Ireland
Man charged over McGoldrick murder
02 Nov 01 |  Northern Ireland



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