Clifford McKeown, 44, a former loyalist “supergrass” in the 1980s who retracted his evidence against associates, and who is already in jail serving 12 years on a firearms charge, will be sentenced next month.
His victim, a married father of two young children, had just graduated from Queen’s University, Belfast. He was working as a taxi-driver temporarily to support his wife and children while he looked for a teaching job.
The court heard the McGoldrick killing had been a “birthday present” for the then LVF leader, Billy Wright, who was himself murdered by the INLA at Christmas 1997 inside the Maze Prison.
During the trial, the court heard McGoldrick was killed after the same LVF gang aborted plans to kidnap three priests from a parochial house in County Armagh and murder them unless the Orangemen were allowed to march down the Garvaghy Road.
The only evidence against McKeown came from an English writer who went to the police after McKeown backed down from a deal to introduce him to LVF leader Mark Fulton.
The writer, Nick Martin Clark, gained access to McKeown in jail by forging a document purportedly establishing him as a researcher to a British MP. McKeown agreed to introduce Clark to Fulton and confided about the McGoldrick murder.
When McKeown withdrew his offer to introduce Clark to Fulton, Clark decided to abandon his confidentiality deal and tell police about McKeown’s confession. Clark is now believed to be in a witness protection programme.
McGoldrick’s body was found in his cab in a country lane in County Armagh, a day after he had picked up a fare in the town. The court heard McKeown, who had been waiting in another car, opened a door of McGoldrick’s cab and fired at him.
After firing four shots, McKeown then fired one final shot to “finish him off,” Belfast Crown Court heard.
McKeown’s brother, Trevor, was earlier convicted of killing an 18-year-old Catholic, Bernadette Martin. She was shot as she slept beside her Protestant boyfriend at his home in Aghalee, Co. Antrim in July 1997.
At that trial in June 1999, Trevor McKeown was found guilty of possessing the .22 Spanish Star pistol used to murder Martin. It was the same gun used to murder Michael McGoldrick.
Fulton, who was believed to have been behind the murder of Lurgan solicitor, Rosemary Nelson, committed suicide in Maghaberry Jail last year.