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40 years ago McKearneys died in hail of UVF bullets now family wants killers to justice

By Rebecca Black

Published 23/10/2015

Peter and Jane McKearney were murdered by loyalists in 1975
Peter and Jane McKearney were murdered by loyalists in 1975
The scene of the murders at Grange Road, Listamlet, near Moy

The sons and daughters of a couple shot dead by the UVF 40 years ago today have urged people to search their memories and hearts to help them get justice.

Peter (63) and Jane (58) McKearney were murdered in their farm just outside Moy, Co Tyrone, on October 23, 1975 as they ate dinner.

Only one person - Garnet Busby - was ever convicted in connection with the slaughter.

In 2010 he refused to tell the Historical Enquiries Team who else was involved.

Speaking publicly for the first time, the McKearney family said they want to know why their quiet parents were targeted and information to help bring more people to justice.

The couple's son Jim had been loading pigs on to a trailer in the farmyard when the gunmen struck, killing his mother first, then his father.

"I was only just away from them, I had gone to get my brother Frank to help me, we heard the shots, ran to the house and saw them lying," he said.

"There was no phone in the house so we had to run to a neighbours to call the police."

Mrs McKearney died after opening the door to the gunmen and being riddled with 11 bullets. They then turned on her husband in the kitchen and shot him 18 times.

Jim's sister Marian McCann was visiting friends that evening.

She heard her parents had been killed on a radio bulletin.

"I was visiting in a house, relatives of my husbands, when I heard it on the 11pm news. I relive it to this day," she said.

"We had been preparing to go when they said wait until we hear the bulletin. I sat on the arm of the sofa and heard the newsreader say there has been a double murder in what has become known as 'murder triangle', then they said my parents' name. I ran, I didn't stop, I ran out through the back door, didn't know where I was going.

"In that second my life was turned upside down."

After the murders Mrs McCann said their neighbours rallied around, but that no politician ever visited to see how they were.

The family home was sealed off as a crime scene and police searched the house, even pulling up floorboards and carpets.

According to the book Lethal Allies, an Army foot patrol in Portadown stopped a car containing four men half-an-hour after the shooting having recognised known UVF men. Two of them, including a member of the UDR, were detained but later released.

Mrs McCann emphasised that her family is and always was "non political and not involved with paramilitaries", yet she said after a while how the police investigating their parents' murders made them feel as if they were under investigation.

"Hardly a week passed when they were not at the house at least once, it was bordering on harassment, they never left," she said.

"It felt like they were more interested in what we were doing, as if they were looking for something to justify why my parents had been killed."

The RUC detectives did not appear to have made much progress until the following May when a farm just a few miles from the McKearney home belonging to Edward Tate Sinclair was searched and one of the guns used to kill the McKearneys was found. Sinclair was charged with having illegal firearms and sentenced in court to serve six years.

Busby was arrested in December 1980 on suspicion of involvement in the bombing of the Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon in 1976 in which four people - including two 13-year-old boys - died.

Busby was charged with the McKearney murders, Hillcrest Bar atrocity and UVF membership. He received five life sentences and served 16 years in prison.

He was questioned by the HET but refused to give up the names of anyone else involved in the McKearney murders.

When asked why he would not name his accomplices by the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, Busby - who is now a community worker in south Belfast - said he had no comment to make.

The HET also discovered that the gun used to kill the McKearneys was from a UDR base at Glenanne, and uncovered fingerprints that they have not been able to match.

The McKearneys are now issuing an appeal for information that they hope will lead to more convictions.

Mrs McCann said she just wanted to know why.

"I am asking that people examine their hearts and consciences, and come forward," she said.

Anyone with information about the murder of Peter and Jane (known as Jenny) McKearney can contact the Pat Finucane Centre in Armagh city on 028 3751 5191.

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