Paul Hill: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

paul hill

Wikimedia Commons Paul Hill

Paul Hill is an Irishman who was wrongfully convicted for Irish Republican Army bombings and the murder of an ex-soldier, spending 15 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit.

He is one of what is called the “Guildford Four.” The others were Gerry Conlon, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson. Paul Michael Hill is also the former husband of Robert F. Kennedy’s fifth daughter, Courtney Kennedy, with whom he had a daughter, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, the 22-year-old RFK granddaughter who died of a possible overdose at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port on August 1, 2019.

“Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse,” the Kennedy family said in a statement that Kerry Kennedy posted on her Instagram account. “Her life was filled with hope, promise and love. She cared deeply about friends and family, especially her mother Courtney, her father Paul, her stepmother Stephanie, and her grandmother Ethel, who said, ‘The world is a little less beautiful today.’ She lit up our lives with her love, her peals of laughter and her generous spirit. Saoirse was passionately moved by the causes of human rights and women’s empowerment and found great joy in volunteer work, working alongside indigenous communities to build schools in Mexico. We will love her and miss her forever.”

Here’s what you need to know about Paul Hill:

1. Hill Was Exonerated After Being Implicated in the Bombings of Pubs Frequented by British Soldiers

Saoirse Kennedy Hill

Saoirse Kennedy Hill with her father Paul Hill.

Paul Hill was released from prison in 1989 after serving 15 years in prison for what are called the 1974 Guildford pub bombings and for the murder of an ex British solider. The establishments were frequented by British soldiers. Specifically, according to The Los Angeles Times, he had been accused in the Irish Republican Army bombing of pubs “in the city of Guildford and London district of Woolwich” and also confessed to the IRA killing of ex-soldier Brian Shaw, a confession eventually ruled inadmissible because it was made under duress.

It was even revealed that an interrogator pointed an empty pistol at Hill during the confession, pulling the trigger, which led the judge to say it was a “disgraceful and grossly improper action which clearly constituted inhuman treatment,” the Times reported. There was no other evidence against him save for the confession, according to The Times.

According to UPI, Hill and three others “were later exonerated by a judge who ruled that police falsified evidence against Hill and three others.” In 1994, an appeals court quashed his murder conviction.

The Irish Times reported that Hill “had signed confessions to his role in three pub bombings in Guildford and Woolwich, and eight murders” and implicated others. This led to more wrongful convictions, the newspaper reported, and “forensic evidence that could have helped clear them was kept from the jury at their original trial, as were witnesses who came forward to provide them with alibis.” Hill says he was beaten, dangled out a window, and his family was threatened to force false confessions.

According to the Irish Times, he was the first person held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which gave police more powers to hold suspects without charges. To the Irish Times, he lamented the direction the world has taken in recent times, saying, “Upon my release I took some comfort from the thought that at least my misfortune would lessen the possibility of it happening to others. Alas it would appear that nothing has been gleaned from the many miscarriages of justice, especially those with political overtones.”

However, Hill said: “We now live in an age in which you can disappear into a black hole, be held without charge indefinitely and subject to torture, whilst Ivy League educated politicians play verbal gymnastics, with the meaning of the word.”

2. Paul Hill Met Courtney Kennedy When He Was Free on Bail

Courtney Kennedy Hill

FacebookCourtney Kennedy Hill

Paul Hill married Courtney Kennedy on board “the yacht Varmar VE in the Aegean Sea by the ship’s owner and captain, Vardis Vardinoyannis.” At the time, he was out on bail while appealing a conviction for the 1974 killing of a British soldier, UPI reported.

At the time, according to UPI, the previously married Courtney, who was 11 when her dad was assassinated, was working as U.N. ambassador for Eastern Europe on the AIDS Foundation. The pair bonded over their shared sense of loss.

“A lot of people think it’s very unnatural. Here I am from West Belfast and I am married to Robert Kennedy’s daughter,” said Paul of the marriage to the Independent. “I don’t feel any of that at all. I really don’t. Partly because I am not phased by people, and they are just a normal family, but people tend to overlook that aspect of it because of tragedy.”

Paul Hill once told the New York Times that the Kennedys will “go to a party or event and 20 times in the course of an evening, some stranger will come up to them and say, ‘I remember the day your father died.’”

Paul Hill first befriended Courtney’s brother, Joe Kennedy, but it was Ethel Kennedy herself who played matchmaker, according to The Independent. “I couldn’t understand a word he said,” Courtney Kennedy recalled to the publication of his Belfast accent. “But I thought: ‘He’s gorgeous.’” They were married from 1993 to 2006, when they separated.

3. Paul Hill Was Initially Given the Longest Sentence Ever Handed Down by an English Court

5th December 1974: One of the men charged with the murder of Caroline Slater, one of the five people killed when a bomb planted by IRA terrorists exploded in the Horse and Groom public house, Guildford, arriving at court at Guildford. He is covered by a blanket. The accused, found guilty at the trial became known as ‘The Guildford Four’. They were released 14 years later, when a court decided that Surrey Police had colluded to mislead the original trial.

At their trial, according to the Irish Post, Paul Hill “was given what was, at the time, the longest sentence ever handed down by an English court; life with no chance of parole until great age or infirmity.”

The Irish newspaper reports that the judge said he wished he could hang Hill. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) service unit called the Balcombe Street gang later said it carried out the bombings, not Hill and the other convicted people.

The Guildford Four were the subject of a Hollywood movie called In The Name Of The Father, starring Daniel Day-Lewis. John Lynch played Paul Hill. He wrote a book called Stolen Years.

4. Paul Hill Grew Up in West Belfast to Parents of Different Religious Backgrounds

Paul Hill grew up in West Belfast, in northern Ireland, as part of a divided religious household. According to The Independent, his father was Protestant and his mother was Catholic.

They had five children together, with Paul the oldest. The family had a legacy of military service. “His grandfather was a British soldier who had endured hardship as a prisoner of the Japanese during the Second World War,” Independent reports, adding that his dad served in Korea in the Royal Navy.

Hill moved in with his grandparents at age 7 because he didn’t get along with his father, The Independent reported. “Did you ever see the film A River Runs Through It? There’s that scene where the wee boy won’t finish his supper,” he told The Independent. “He sits there and his parents and his brother leave, and he’s left there to finish it. But he won’t finish it. That’s me. I was that boy. I’d take a thrashing before I’d do something I didn’t want to.”

5. Paul’s Daughter Saoirse Died of an Apparent Overdose

Saoirse Kennedy Hill

TwitterSaoirse Kennedy Hill

Paul Hill and Courtney Kennedy had a daughter together named Saoirse Kennedy Hill. She was only 22-years-old when she died on August 1, 2019 at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port.

The New York Times and other publications have reported that it’s believed Saoirse died of an overdose, although her cause of death has not yet been confirmed by the family or authorities.

Saoirse was found at her grandmother Ethel Kennedy’s home. She was a Boston College student who was studying media and who once penned a poignant article about struggling with depression and mental health issues. You can read more about her life and death here.

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