Judgment reserved in 1973 murder case

Judgment reserved in 1973 murder case

Judgment in the trial of a convicted loyalist killer, for involvement in the sectarian murder of a teenage girl nearly 40 years ago, has been reserved.

Belfast Crown Court no jury trial judge Mr Justice Horner reserved judgment on Robert James Shaw Rodgers for the 1973 murder of 19-year-old Eileen Doherty, following final submissions on Thursday.

This came after Rodgers refused to give or call evidence in his defence.

Earlier, Mr Justice Horner refused to 'stay' proceedings against Rodgers, 59, ruling that despite the time gap he could still get a fair trial.

The Diplock judge also refused to give a 'direction' in case as the prosecution evidence, at its height, could support a conviction by a jury properly directed.

Mr Justice Horner said he would deliver his judgment as soon as possible on Rodgers, from Tierney Gardens in Belfast, for the murder of Ms Doherty shot three times after her taxi taking her back to west Belfast was hijacked by gunmen on 1 October, 1973.

In final submissions, prosecution lawyer Gary McCrudden said that the court was entitled to draw an adverse inference at Rodgers' refusal to give evidence to the trial.

The lawyer claimed that the overwhelming inference to be drawn from his refusal was that Rodgers had no innocent explanation to give the court.

Mr McCrudden said Rodgers had provided no explanation as to how his two palm prints were found in the hijacked taxi, nor had he given an explanation consistent with innocence during his five interviews with police.

The lawyer accepted it was a circumstantial case against Rodgers, but claimed it was a strong case backed up by the object evidence.

Defence QC Gregg Berry claimed the crucial point and core of the prosecution case was the palm prints which remained untested, and evidence which should be treated with a great deal of caution.

The prosecution case, he claimed, was a crumbling edifice as there was no evidence to say when the prints were deposited.

In addition, other unidentified prints were recovered and the court was left grasping for the significance of these prints, if any.

Mr Berry said the question of those prints remained unanswered, and that it was not for Rodgers to provide answers to those questions.

Rodgers, who was convicted in 1975 for the sectarian murder of an 18-year-old north Belfast youth, was released on continuing bail.

The court had heard that Miss Doherty had been visiting her then fiancee Alex McManus, who lived just off the Ormeau Road area, when she went to the depot of Atlas Taxis on Sunday 30 September about 10.45pm.

There were two other men in the depot also waiting for a taxi, and the firm's owner, John Sherry, since deceased, said he would take all three at once.

As he drove along Annadale Embankment, one of the men "pointed a gun at his head" and hijacked the taxi.

Although Mr Sherry and Miss Doherty managed to initially escape, the killers later caught up with the teenager and she was fatally shot.


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