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Boston College paramilitary tapes spark Troubles murder bid probe

Published 08/10/2015

John Devine
John Devine
John O’Hara
The PSNI's Legacy Investigation Branch is trying to trace the male target of an attempted shooting in Belfast's Falls Road in the early 1970s

Taped interviews with loyalist paramilitaries seized by police from a US college have prompted an investigation of a Troubles murder bid.

Detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Legacy Investigation Branch are trying to find the male target of the attempted shooting in Belfast's Falls Road in the early 1970s.

The development comes weeks after the LIB launched fresh probes into the loyalist murders of John Benedict Devine in west Belfast in 1989 and John Joseph Gerard O'Hara in south Belfast in 1991.

It is understood the investigations into the two murders and the attempted murder were all prompted by information contained on tapes obtained from Boston College.

In 2001 the college in Massachusetts commenced a five-year oral history project aimed at documenting perspectives on the Troubles from those involved in the conflict.

Former paramilitaries, both republican and loyalist, were interviewed about their roles in the 40 years of violence which blighted Northern Ireland on the understanding that their accounts would not be made public until after their deaths.

But subsequent court rulings in the US have rendered that undertaking useless, as the PSNI were awarded custody of the tapes for investigative purposes.

PSNI Detective Inspector Neil NcGuinness, from LIB, said details around the murder bid were vague.

"On the back of the information we received, we are now appealing for the public's help in relation to an attempted murder which took place in the early 1970s," he said.

"We believe the victim was walking to work early on a Monday morning when he was approached by a group of men in a car. One of the culprits got out of the vehicle, held a gun to the man's head and fired it but the gun failed to go off. The victim was then hit over the head with the gun before his assailants fled the scene.

"We are keen to trace the victim of this terrifying attack or anyone who has any further information in relation to it. The details are vague at this stage but I am confident there are people out there who will know about this. We need them to come forward and contact us so that we can progress our investigation."

Mr McGuinness also reiterated the appeal regarding the murders of Mr Devine and Mr O'Hara.

"We know there are still people out there who can help us with this investigation," he said.

"I would once again urge anyone who was in the area at the time of either of the murders or anyone who has information in relation to the activities of loyalists in the area in the late '80s and early '90s to come forward.

"Many years have now passed since these tragic events and no-one has ever been charged in relation to them. However, we believe there are still people out there who can help us find those responsible and I would urge them to contact detectives."

Last year veteran republican Ivor Bell, 78, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, was arrested and charged in connection with the murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972 based on information contained on the Boston tapes.

Bell, who denies involvement, has yet to face trial.

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