16 December 2005

Former soldier found dead in cell


15/12/2005 - 19:16:40

A former soldier jailed over the loyalist murder of two Catholic workmen was found dead in his cell today.

Investigators were called in to Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn, Co Antrim after John Marsden’s body was discovered.

Marsden, 30, who served with the Royal Signal Corps before being dismissed, was jailed for life for supplying the gun used in the double sectarian killing in May 1994.

Armagh men Eamon Fox, 44, and Gary Convie, 24, were shot dead by an Ulster Volunteer Force gunman as they ate lunch in a parked car near a building site at Tigers Bay, north Belfast.

Marsden, who was 19 at the time of the murders, was said to have collected the weapon and later hid the killer’s clothes.

He was released in July 2000 under the Good Friday Agreement early release scheme for paramilitary prisoners.

But in September of this year Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain ordered him to be put back behind bars because he was seen as a danger to the public.

Marsden, believed to be from the Ormeau area of Belfast, had been charged with driving while unfit and drugs possession.

But he decided to stay with other life sentencers, rather than go onto the separate Erne House wing with loyalist inmates.

The Northern Ireland Prison Service confirmed he was found dead in his single-bed cell shortly before 9am today.

A spokesman said: “The next of kin, Coroner and police have been informed.

“In compliance with procedures introduced in September 2005, the Prisoner Ombudsman’s Office has been asked to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death.”

However, it is not being treated as suspicious.

Loyalist sources said Marsden, who was thought to have been appealing his return to prison, had distanced himself from the UVF since his conviction.

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