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4 May 2000 Edition

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Senior officers offered killer soldiers promotion

The spurned lover of convicted Scots Guard James Fisher has released a number of controversial letters to a Scottish newspaper revealing that senior British Army officers visited the convicted murderer in jail promising that he would be promoted upon release. The letters go on to reveal why the soldier who searched victim Peter McBride was not called as a witness, Fisher's disdain for his co-accused Mark Wright and an incident when members of the Scots Guards snubbed then Secretary of State Mo Mowlam on a visit to the regiment.

The revelations come as an Army Board prepares to decide the future of the two guardsmen convicted of the 1992 killing of North Belfast man Peter McBride. Fisher told his former girlfriend, Kate Rice, that he had been visited by his commanding officer, Lt Col. Tim Spicer, soon after his conviction and promised that everything was being done to get the pair released: ``My commanding officer has said that I will get back, and when I do, I could even be promoted.'' The letter went on: ``I told you about my visit from my commanding officer and Major General Kizsley... he is doing his best to keep us in the army.''

Campaigners for the McBride family have demanded that Prime Minister Tony Blair intervene in the case. A spokesperson for the Pat Finucane Centre said: ``The allegations that senior officers attempted to pervert the course of justice in this case confirms the suspicions that we have had all along. On 31 January 1997, Major General Kizsley used his position as a senior officer to recommend that the two should not be discharged from the army. In February 1996, a petition was sent to Secretary of State Dr Mo Mowlam by Kizsley calling for the early release of the two men. Their commanding officer, Lt Col Spicer, has made clear his view that the two should not even have been charged in the first place. Clearly, senior officers who had ``unlimited ``jail visits were attempting to negate the spirit of the judgement of a court of law. Who really rules Britain?

A further damning revelation is contained in the letters, according to campaigners for the McBride family. Fisher criticised his lawyers for wanting to put Lance Corporal Swift, leader of the four-man patrol, on the witness stand. His evidence would have confirmed that he had searched Peter McBride and there was no evidence of an alleged coffee jar bomb. In reference to a meeting with his Belfast solicitor, Fisher admitted: ``He understands what the lawyers in England want, but I don't know if they are aware of the reasons for not calling Swift as a witness.'' Swift was never called to give evidence. This admission refutes the central argument of those who claimed the conviction was a miscarriage of justice. Ludovic Kennedy, who called for the release of the guardsmen, claimed that Swift's evidence might have ``...tipped the judge's mind into believing Fisher's and Wright's account...'' Fisher obviously didn't share this view.

Fisher was scornful of his accomplice in the murder, Mark Wright, accusing him of ``losing his cool'' and inventing ``stupid lies'' in his statement to the RUC about bullets ricocheting off a wall and hitting Peter McBride in the back.

In reference to an official visit to the Scots Guards by Dr Mowlam, Fisher relates how soldiers refused to talk to the Secretary of State: ``I would love to have seen her ugly face when he blanked her.''

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