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Paddy Meehan

PADDY Meehan, whose case became a legal cause celebre following his wrongful conviction for the murder of an Ayr pensioner 25 years ago, yesterday died of throat cancer in a Swansea hospital at the age of 67.

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Mr Meehan received a royal pardon in 1976, seven years into his life sentence. He had spent those in solitary confinement proclaiming his innocence.

His case, one of the most notorious in Scottish legal history, was the subject of a prolonged campaign and several books, and was taken up by journalist and broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy.

The subsequent Hunter inquiry took five years and failed to clear Mr Meehan's name, leaving him ''pardoned for a crime he did not commit'' and so enraging him he made several legal bids to re-open his case.

The murder of Mrs Rachel Ross in 1969 scandalised Scotland. Two men broke into the Ayr house the 72-year-old pensioner shared with her husband Abraham.

They tied up the wealthy couple before bludgeoning Mrs Ross, who sustained horrific head injuries from which she died. Mr Ross, beside her, was not found for a further 24 hours.

Mr Meehan, a safebreaker, was well known to police and was immediately questioned. He said that he had been with Jim Griffiths -- who had a record of violence -- in Stranraer that night.

Griffiths's actions when the police arrived convinced many of Mr Meehan's apparent guilt and set in motion the events leading to his eventual conviction.

Pathologically afraid of prison, Griffiths met the police with a hail of bullets, and embarked on a daylight rampage through Glasgow. He killed one man and wounded 12 other people before being shot dead.

Represented by Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, QC, and solicitor Mr Joseph Beltrami, Mr Meehan was subsequently found guilty by a majority verdict of murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Doubts began to emerge over the conviction, and other names came into the frame for the murder. William ''Tank'' McGuiness and underworld figure Ian Waddell were named by Ludovic Kennedy as the killers of Rachel Ross in a 1975 book, A Presumption of Innocence.

Waddell had confessed his guilt, claimed Mr Kennedy, and following Mr Meehan's pardon, he was put on trial -- and cleared -- for Mrs Ross's murder.

An inquiry headed by Lord Hunter was ordered by the then Scottish Secretary Bruce Millan, and, after five years, its report advanced the theory that Mr Meehan had indeed been present together with Griffiths and two other men the night Mrs Ross was attacked.

The Hunter report additionally found insufficient evidence to support Mr Meehan's claim that he had been the victim of a police conspiracy.

His battle for compensation for his years spent in prison was finally concluded when he was awarded #50,000 in 1984.

The former safe-breaker then had a brief career selling burglar alarms, and then double-glazing.

His fight was not over, however, and he started a well-publicised feud with Mr Beltrami, as well as continuing to press through the courts for his case to be reopened.

Mr Beltrami published a book, A Deadly Innocence: The Meehan File, in November 1989, an account which Mr Meehan claimed was inaccurate.

Mr Meehan further recorded his thoughts on Mr Beltrami in his own book, Framed by MI5, which he wrote after leaving Glasgow almost 10 years ago to settle close to family in Port Talbot.

In Framed by MI5, which Mr Meehan could often be seen hawking around Glasgow streets, he claimed he had been the victim of an elaborate conspiracy, concocted by the security services, to keep him quiet over what he described as his role in the escape of Soviet spy George Blake from a London prison in 1966.

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