Life changes when you're accused of bomb-making at 14
PUBLISHED: 15:21 11 March 2009 | UPDATED: 16:00 07 September 2010
Patrick Maguire was just 14 when he, along with his family, was locked up after being wrongly accused of making the bombs used in the 1974 IRA attacks in Guildford and Woolwich. He tells Bridget Galton about the fury that he carried around for years and h
Patrick Maguire was just 14 when he, along with his family, was locked up after being wrongly accused of making the bombs used in the 1974 IRA attacks in Guildford and Woolwich. He tells Bridget Galton about the fury that he carried around for years and how he has finally started to put his life together again.
FROM his top floor flat in a Harrow Road tower block, Patrick Maguire can see grim reminders of his family's wrongful imprisonment.
To his right is Paddington Green Police Station where they were taken on December 3 1974 on suspicion of running an IRA bomb factory.
Behind is Wormwood Scrubs, which he passed through during three years in jail between the ages of 14 and17.
And up the road is Harrow Road police station, whose officers for years would mete out kickings and call him murdering Irish scum.
Maguire has lived in this white-painted eyrie since he got out of prison 30 years ago.
His mother Anne, who served 10 years for making the devices used in the Guildford pub bombings, now lives in Maida Vale. His brother Vincent, who served five years, is a London cabbie living nearby.
"If we were really IRA, after we got out of prison we would have gone back to Belfast and been looked after, and had our faces painted on a wall as heroes," says Maguire, now 47.
"But we behaved like innocent people. I am a Londoner, I know nothing about Ireland. This is where we are from. We didn't want to live anywhere else."
The Maguires were an ordinary family living in a terraced house in Third Avenue, West Kilburn, when IRA bombings in Guildford and Woolwich pubs killed seven and injured many more.
The police picked up four people for the attacks and violently extracted wrongful confessions from them.
At some point, either Gerry Conlon (Anne Maguire's nephew) or Paddy Hill (who had met her once) gave her name as the bomb maker.
They both thought the idea so preposterous, it wouldn't stand up in court.
The Maguire parents may have been born in Belfast but they weren't political - and they had never been to Guildford.
But when police raided their home, innocent household items - a pair of rubber gloves, a stick of chalk, an Irish flag, a roll of tape and recordings of Irish songs - were used to back up their flimsy theory.
Three others, including Conlon's father Guiseppe, were also arrested, and fingernail swabs tested positive for nitro-glycerine - although much later it emerged the test had been done wrongly.
"We could have had Columbo, Ironside and Judge Judy and we wouldn't have got off," says Maguire, drily.
"The prosecution took two to three weeks. They had the best man on it and my dad said, 'He's that good, he's convinced me I am guilty.'"
Despite his age, Patrick was sent to adult jail because of the seriousness of the crime.
"When Sir John May did the inquiry into the convictions, he said, 'Did you never stop and ask yourself how a boy of 13 got involved' or say 'Hang on, we have a child here, let's treat him like a child'. But no-one ever did."
The Guildford Four were released in 1989 and the so-called Maguire Seven verdicts quashed in 1991.
But it wasn't a case of walking joyfully back into their old lives - the injustice surrounding the bombings had blown everyone's lives apart.
Ironically, while the family was awaiting trial in the winter of 1975, a siege took place in nearby Balcombe Street, Marylebone, when an IRA unit was caught in the act and holed up in a flat with hostages.
They were caught and jailed. But although they confessed to the Guildford bombings, the information was never acted upon.
While Anne's faith helped her through her prison term and Vincent was "the nicest fella you would ever meet, everyone loved him, even the screws", Patrick took the stretch in prison very hard.
If before he was an occasionally naughty teenager, running around Kilburn with his mates and dreaming of joining the army, afterwards he drank heavily, used drugs and broke the law.
In prison, he swiftly acquired a tough exterior to survive.
"I was brought up by two good parents and, before I was 13, we had a happy life. I was a bit fiery but I wasn't a thug or a bully. But guilty or not guilty, you learn the same things in jail. When you are put into a position that is hostile and frightening, it's sink or swim. I swam. You have to stand up for yourself."
For years afterwards, he was consumed with fury at the police, Gerry Conlon and others.
"My mum always said the anger was only hurting myself. I had to let go of it. It was killing me and I didn't want to pass it onto my kids - it's their history but it's not their trouble.
"Perhaps it was to do with my dad dying. It broke my heart. I had lost him once when he went to prison and I lost him again.
"I didn't want to be carrying that anger around and I hit a crossroads. I could've gone left, but instead I went right and decided to get on with life."
He finally shook hands with Conlon in 2005 when they attended a private apology from Tony Blair at Westminster.
Maguire hadn't spoken to him since he was 13 but, as they walked down a corridor, he extended his hand and received a huge hug. It was the best thing about that day, he says.
"For all those years I would have killed him if I'd seen him. It was a release for me.
"He has been carrying it around with him and has his own demons and who am I to punish him? I have done so much in my own life I shouldn't have done."
Around the same time, he had a breakdown, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, and began to write his story down - a process which has clearly helped him to heal.
"I burned out. I had never faced what I had been through before. It has been my life.
"I haven't carried it around like a stone all the time but I have been up and down and I have been in bits.
"I have tried to get on and put it behind me and move forward but the system, the police, didn't allow me to.
"After I got out of the Priory, I chose to remember it and take some control of it for the first time but it was bloody hard.
"All of a sudden you are opening up doors that you have left shut all your life."
His story My Father's Watch (Harper Perennial, £7.99)
out now in paperback, is heartbreaking, perhaps because it gives the most harrowing details of beatings and interrogations in unsentimental factual terms.
But you cannot escape the tragedy of a fearful, innocent
14-year-old Maguire locked in a prison cell for the first time.
A father of three and now a grandfather, he says that, after all these years, the book is not about "headhunting" but about looking hard at his own life.
"This life has taken so much out of me, so this other half of my life I want to be in control of and take advantage of.
"For years and years we were going through this crap and no-one cared or listened.
"It is good to have this day and say, 'This is the people we are, the people you read about at the time, evil Aunt Annie and her family of bombmakers.'"
Maguire says it makes him think about the many Muslim families who share his council block, how they move around with heads bowed, and are treated with suspicion.
And he thinks about the men released from Guantanamo Bay, about whether they were ever where they were said to be, committing acts of terrorism.
His life seems good now. He lives alone in his uncluttered flat, but his sons visit often.
His youngest Billy is around the same age as he was when he went to jail and the poignancy of it all has worked its way into the art that he loves to work on.
"I am on this long road. I wake up and every single day it's still a struggle," he says, looking around his home.
"When I first moved in, the flat was derelict like me. I have slowly done it up. It's got a great view, like an aquarium but I would like to get out one day."
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