Irish Jockey Seeks to Appeal Murder Conviction

By Irish America Staff
August / September 2002

There are hopes that Irish jockey Christy McGrath, who is in jail in Britain for the murder of a former Newcastle United player, may be granted an appeal.

McGrath, who claims he is innocent of the murder, has been moved to a more liberal prison regime as a result of growing pressure from lobbyists in both Ireland and Britain.

Members of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four are backing his appeal, as well as a growing number of British and Irish politicians and sportsmen.

The 23-year-old jump jockey from Co Tipperary was sentenced to sixteen years for the murder of Gary Walton in a village in Durham two years ago.

The two had been involved in a fight at a bar in the village. McGrath admits hitting the former player with a brick and fleeing the scene.

He also says he was pressured into making a guilty plea, as he was told that he would serve up to 30 years if found guilty.

But while McGrath has admitted that he was in a fight with the former player he denies killing him. He claims that undisclosed CCTV footage shows a gang of men, some wearing balaclavas, going to the place where he had left Walton after the incident.

He says he was led to believe that Walton had been beaten to death, but evidence was given at the trial stating that he was in fact strangled.

Supporters of his campaign include some leading jockeys. “Until my dying day, I will not believe that Christy is responsible for this man’s death,” says Grand National winner Richard Guest. Billy Power, who was wrongfully convicted of the Birmingham bombings, says he believes that another miscarriage of justice has occurred. “Christy’s demeanor and behavior throughout have been that of an innocent man. I’m disgusted that a man can be convicted of a major crime and given a lengthy sentence under such circumstances.” ♦

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