“I’VE never been lifted or questioned by police in over 30 years” - that was the emphatic statement from Keith ‘Packer’ Woods yesterday (Thursday) as he denied allegations he was questioned or linked to the murder of Lurgan journalist Martin O’Hagan.
The well-known Portadown property developer has offered to meet with the O’Hagan family to tell them face to face he had nothing to do with the Sunday World journalist’s murder. Furthermore he also claims he knows nothing about the killing.
Mr Woods spoke exclusively to the Portadown Times after another newspaper claimed he had been arrested and questioned by detectives investigating the murder of Mr O’Hagan who was shot dead in front of his wife close to his Lurgan home in 2001. The murder was claimed by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover-name used by the LVF.
A devout Jehovah’s Witness for 21 years, Mr Woods had given an interview to the church’s newspaper The Watchtower, describing his past and his path to faith. In that article he spoke of his friendship with LVF leader Billy Wright. The interview was repeated in the Irish News as well as allegations that Mr Woods had been questioned in relation to Martin O’Hagan’s murder.
No one to date has been charged with his murder.
“These are serious allegations,” said Mr Woods. “This has come out and people out there will believe it. I have never been lifted in 30 years. I have never been questioned about any of it.
“There’s a family involved here. There’s a wee family sitting over in Lurgan who have lost their husband and lost their daddy. If I sit back and take the attitude I’m saying nothing, in days to come that wee family will always think that I’m involved. The truth is that I have not been lifted in 30 years.
“I’m totally, totally gutted. I feel very, very hurt that Martin O’Hagan’s family would actually think that I would ever, ever be involved in anything like that there. I’m totally disgusted,” said Mr Woods.
“I have no issue of meeting Martin O’Hagan’s family and tell Martin O’Hagan’s family that I have never been in trouble and never got in trouble and stayed out of trouble. I go to my meetings and worship and I do everything right.
“If Martin O’Hagan’s sister wants to meet me to ask me anything, if I was lifted or anything. I could meet her and tell her I wasn’t. I don’t know anything to do with anything about Martin O’Hagan,” he insisted.
“The people of Portadown know me.”
Mr Woods, known to most as ‘Packer’ said he knew Wright from school days and had been best man at his wedding in the mid 1980s. Wright was shot dead while in the Maze prison in 1997.
Packer said he also had taken Wright’s two daughters to their father’s funeral in Portadown.
He admits he served time for throwing a petrol bomb in 1977 but says he has not been questioned by police in connection to any terrorist related crimes in more than 30 years.
He denies ever serving time with Wright in the Maze but says that he did serve time with the Portadown loyalist in the Training School at Rathgael when they were both young.
Mr Woods says he now fears for his family since these allegations were made.
Earlier this year a man previously accused of murdering Mr O’Hagan, 32-year-old Neil Hyde signed a contract to become an ‘assisting offender’.
Lawyer Gordon Kerr QC said Hyde signed the contract under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) in return for a reduced sentence for 48 LVF-linked offences to which he has already pleaded guilty.
His address was given as c/o the Witness Protection Unit.
A police spokeswoman said, “We do not comment on named individuals or on the detail of investigations into serious crime. No inference should be drawn from this.”