The high-security Maghaberry Prison seemed to be out of control, its former governor told a court on Tuesday during an Appeal by two Craigavon men.
Steve Rodford said he believed some staff tried to intimidate him by the alleged planting of a note containing his car registration details in the cell of one of two men later found guilty of the murder of PSNI officer Stephen Carroll.
Along with former prisoner ombudsman Pauline McCabe, Mr Rodford was giving evidence at the appeal hearing of Brendan McConville, 42, and John Paul Wootton, 22.
Both men are seeking to overturn their convictions for the killing. The PSNI officer was shot dead as he responded to a 999 call at Lismore Manor in March 2009.
Mr Rodford and Mrs McCabe were questioned amid defence claims that police were intent on prosecuting McConville at all costs. Part of their case is that after the note was discovered in his remand cell in 2009 detectives failed to investigate his allegations that it had been planted.
Mr Rodford then quit his post in December that year - just months after taking over. He told of his unproven “gut feeling” that a member of staff was behind the note. At the time he was trying to implement changes at the prison.
Recalling how he felt on being informed of the find by one of those officers, he said: “The smug manner in which he approached me. The feeling as I remember thinking quite strongly the prison was out of control, actually people of the SS (Standby Search Team) unbelievably trying to intimidate the governor.”
However, he had no memory of ever telling Mrs McCabe that he declined an alleged police request to add a sentence to his statement.
Mrs McCabe set out how her probe into the circumstances surrounding the note concluded that on the balance of probabilities it was planted by a member of prison staff. She told how she went to a PSNI Assistant Chief Constable over her concerns that McConville may be prosecuted for the find without detectives properly considering that he was not responsible.
“In this instance I had evidence to suggest the possibility that the note found in Mr McConville’s cell had been planted by prison staff had not been fully investigated.”
The case continues.