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Bookies massacre blamed for death of twin, 25 years later

By Ivan Little

Martin Magee's name will never be recorded on any official list of victims of Northern Ireland's troubles, but his friends and family say the UFF terrorists who shot his twin brother almost exactly 25 years ago in south Belfast were responsible for his death too.

The 43-year-old father of two was buried last weekend and mourners who attended the funeral of his 18-year-old twin Peter Magee in February 1992, after the Grahams bookies massacre on the Ormeau Road, followed the same route to St Malachy's church in the Markets area of the city.

Friends said that Martin Magee - who was quickly on the scene of the horrific attack - never recovered from what he saw or what he lost that fateful Wednesday afternoon.

Five Catholics, including 15-year-old James Kennedy, died as two loyalists calmly walked into the bookies and shot virtually every one of the 13 people inside the tiny offices in a 20 second frenzy of gunfire.

The UFF said the attack was in retaliation for the IRA's murder at Teebane in Co Tyrone of eight Protestant workmen who had been carrying out work for the security forces.

Friends said Martin and Peter Magee were like 'two peas in a pod' but after the massacre the surviving twin's world apparently fell apart and he found it difficult to cope without his brother, after whom he named one of his two sons.

Mark Thompson, director of the Relatives for Justice group who have been working with the Ormeau Road families to highlight their claims of collusion between the killers and the security forces, said Mr Magee's family had tried desperately to help him and to save him from the demons which haunted him.

There were times when his family thought Mr Magee was winning his battle, but the struggle was too much and friends said things were particularly tough for him when anniversaries of the atrocity came around.

One friend said: "On the good days and good weeks there were signs that Martin was coming out of his downward spiral. But at the time of some of the anniversaries it all got too much for him again."

Mr Thompson said Martin and Peter Magee were inseparable as they grew up, demonstrating the special bond between twin brothers.

He added: "That was certainly evidenced when I was in the home of their mother Clara.

"The family pictures showed the abundance of love and memories that lived on despite the awful heartache and suffering."

Mr Magee died from liver failure two days into the New Year with his family around him.

His passing came one month and two days before the 25th anniversary of the shooting, which will be commemorated with a ceremony on the Lower Ormeau Road.

Mr Magee's 85-year-old mother, who never got the chance to say goodbye to her son Peter, had been at his twin's bedside for 36 hours without sleep.

As Mr Magee's funeral cortege made its way to St Malachy's church, young Gaelic footballers from St Malachy's GAC gave him a guard of honour.

Mr Thompson said he believed Mr Magee was another victim of the bookies massacre, adding: "The statistics say that five people were killed and a number of other men were injured, but the impact that the attack has had in terms of traumatic effect is much broader."

He said that young victim James Kennedy's parents and other relatives of victims had died prematurely as a consequence of the shooting along with some of the survivors.

Mr Kennedy had blamed his wife's death in 1994 on the attack.

He said: "The bullets that killed James didn't just travel in distance, they travelled in time. Some of the bullets never stopped travelling."

Five years ago, on the 20th anniversary of the murders, Mr Kennedy's words were carved into a new memorial to the victims.

Their families said the memorial "serves as a reminder of the suffering that was caused, the collusion that lay behind it and our determination that truth and justice will ultimately prevail".

Relatives for Justice have produced a dossier showing how one of the guns used in the bookies attack had been in the possession of the RUC's Special Branch three years earlier, but was handed back by police to the UDA without it having been bugged to stop it being used in further atrocities.

The pistol was used in a gun attack on the Devenish Bar in Finaghy in December 1991, when Catholic civil servant Aidan Wallace was shot dead and an eight-year-old boy was blinded in one eye after the UFF gunmen shot him in the face.

Six weeks later the gun was used in the bookies attack. A rifle which was also used, later turned up as an exhibit in the Imperial War Museum in London.

Two years after the massacre, two loyalists, Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder who were suspected of involvement in it were shot dead on the Ormeau Road by the IRA. The murders were carried out just before the Provisionals' ceasefire came into effect and sources claimed the terrorists were settling old scores while they still could.

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