A man who was wrongly jailed for murder at the age of 16 said his life had been ruined by the experience.
Robert Adams spent nine years behind bars after being convicted of the murder of a 51-year-old alcoholic in Belfast in 1977.
Last week, three judges at the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal declared his conviction unsafe and the crown prosecution service did not contest the case.
“It’s wrecked me, it’s turned me into an old man before my days. My ideal life now would be just to go away into a cave and live somewhere. I would rather have my nine years back. I had ambition, I could have been something a whole lot different today. My life has been ruined,” said Mr Adams.
He was originally arrested at the age of 16 in 1977 by Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) detectives for questioning about a robbery. But he was asked about the murder of 51-year-old Terence Spring, now thought to have been killed in a sectarian attack by loyalists.
“Basically when they started questioning me about the murder, I was confused to begin with. Then I got scared They were browbeating me, they were bullying me. They were telling me things that were going to happen, a lot of psychological stuff that played on my mind and I wasn’t the strongest of people physically or mentally,” said Mr Adams.
He signed a confession to the murder after three days in an RUC station without access to his family or a legal representative. At the trial, the judge was apparently not shown a hand-written police statement which claimed that Adams had shook his head in disagreement when asked about the murder.
The typed statement at the trial claimed he had nodded his head in agreement to show he knew about it.
Adam’s statement also contained the incorrect assertion that he had shot Spring and then wrapped him in a blanket when forensic tests showed the man had been wrapped in a blanket and then shot.
But he was found guilty of the murder and served his sentence in the Maze prison, where loyalists told him they knew he wasn’t guilty.
His application for leave to appeal against conviction was refused by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal in 1979 but the case was referred to the court again two years ago by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Speaking on RTE radio, Mr Adams said he had been picked on by the police because he was an easy target.
“Them men, they want to get down before their God and ask for forgiveness and not ask for anything else.”