Soldier denies changing evidence

Cpl Geoffrey McNeill
Cpl Geoffrey McNeill
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A soldier has been accused of altering evidence in a murder trial because of sectarian divisions which have developed within the Royal Irish Regiment.

Defence solicitors have alleged that since Lance Corporal Richard Farrell, 23, was arrested and charged with murdering 32-year-old Corporal Geoffrey McNeill, of North Shore, Blackpool, at Clive Barracks, Shropshire, in March a division has been caused among soldiers at the barracks from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Cpl Robin McDowell, a close friend of Cpl McNeill, was accused by defence counsel Stephen Linehan at Birmingham Crown Court of altering his evidence from when he arrived on the scene to find his friend dead and a subsequent conversation he had with Farrell. Cpl McDowell denied the suggestions.

He told the jury that Farrell, who was unknown to him at the time, had come into the room before police or paramedics arrived and told him he had found Cpl McNeill’s room on March 8 by knocking on all the doors in Block B.

He said Farrell wanted to find him to apologise for an incident when they clashed while the night before.

He also said Farrell told him he found the room by the words “McNasty” written on the door, and that Cpl McNeill may have been killed by electric shock after a plug socket in the room was found damaged.

But Mr Linehan said none of this was in the statement given to the police on March 9 and in his statement he had said Farrell had found “McNeill” on the door and that he had not noticed the plug socket.

Mr Linehan said: “After Richard Farrell was arrested and charged it has caused damage and division?”

“I would disagree,” replied Cpl McDowell.

Mr Linehan continued: “I suggest to you that opinion in the regiment has hardened towards Richard Farrell since he was charged?”

Cpl McDowell said: “No more so than it would be against anyone else accused of murder.”

Farrell denies murder.