In his role as the only taxi-driver in the County Down town of Gilford, William McDowell often carried cash as well as passengers. On SEPTEMBER 3rd, 1920, his fare was William McConville, a mill cashier who he took the six miles to Banbridge to collect the workers’ wages, totalling nearly £1,500.

On their return journey they saw three men trying to start a car which appeared to have broken down, so McDowell stopped to see if he could help. Two of the men promptly produced guns, one levelled at the cashier and the other thrust against McDowell’s chest.

The taxi driver hit out, punching the man in the face. And as the gunman staggered backwards he fired twice, and McDowell fell dead. The cashier was thrown over a wall into the River Bann, and the “broken-down” car sped away.

William Conlon, an American who had recently arrived in Gilford, became a suspect because he was £200 in debt and had got to know McConville the cashier. He was arrested together with Hugh Rodgers and Frank O’Boyle, who both owned garages. In one of these the police found the getaway car and the murder weapon.

The cashier was suspected of complicity because he knew Conlon and his life had been spared. He too was arrested, and all four were charged with McDowell’s murder.

Their first trial, held in Belfast, was abandoned when the jury refused to return a verdict. At a second trial in January 1921, Conlon, Rodgers and O’Boyle were convicted and sentenced to death, and McConville was acquitted.

Rodgers and O’Boyle escaped shortly afterwards during an IRA raid on Belfast’s Crumlin Road Prison. Conlon was reprieved, served 10 years and was then deported. Back in the United States, he returned to crime. He also became a police informer, and in 1933 he was shot dead in New Jersey.