Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Asda worker shot catholic brothers in the head

John and Thomas McErlane. Shot dead by gunmen in a flat in Mount Vernon Green, Belfast. Police carry out one of the brothers bodies from the flat. 23/5/1975
John McErlane. Shot dead by gunmen in a flat in Mount Vernon Green, Belfast. 23/5/1975.
Ulster Vanguard Movement:September 1972.

An Asda employee at the centre of a row over The Sash is a double UVF killer who murdered two Catholic brothers more than 30 years ago.

William Hunter was reinstated to his job as a checkout operator at the company’s north Belfast store yesterday, days after being sacked for telling a driver to play the loyalist song.

His dismissal sparked four days of protests outside the store on the Shore Road, with supporters claiming he was “the salt of the earth” and “an asset to Asda”.

But it has been revealed that Hunter carried out one of the most brutal attacks of the Troubles, when he murdered John and Thomas McErlane after luring them to a flat in Mount Vernon.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph this morning, their brother Gerard McErlane said he was not convinced Hunter had changed.

“I was very annoyed when I heard about him wanting The Sash played,” he said.

“I said to myself he’s still a bigot, he’s still trying to incite hatred, especially in Asda where there’s a mixed community going in and out of it.

“People talk about him being friendly and the salt of the earth, but I know the way my brothers were set up to be killed. It was brutal, bigoted, sectarian murder. I wonder if Asda knew about him. I wonder what they will do about him.”

Asda declined to comment when contacted today, with a spokeswoman stating the company did not discuss individuals.

“We take care not to discuss our colleagues in public, particularly in matters that are clearly as sensitive as these,” she said.

Hunter, who has worked at the checkouts at Asda for seven years, was dismissed after claims he told a driver to play the Sash instead of pop music.

Protests were held outside Asda on the Shore Road on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Hunter won an appeal yesterday to return to his job after he “expressed regret” for “the unintentional offence caused” for his comments.

Billy Hutchinson, a former PUP Assembly member, who was among the demonstrators, had said Hunter was “really well-liked” and not the type of person to act in a sectarian manner.

Mr Hutchinson was not available for comment this morning.

John (29) and Thomas (19) were shot twice in the back of the head in 1975 while playing cards with Protestant work colleagues at a flat close to the Asda store where Hunter now works.

Two gunmen burst into the flat and ordered everyone there to lie on the floor. The two brothers were shot in the head as they lay on the ground. The murders were claimed by the Protestant Action Force, a cover name for the UVF.

Hunter was sentenced to life for what the trail judge described as “a dastardly act”, but was freed 14 years later. During the trial it emerged he and others had spent months trying to lure the victims to Mount Vernon.

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