Belfast Telegraph

Family wins inquest location battle

A long delayed inquest into the loyalist murder of an uncle and his nephew near Dungannon will be held in the Co Tyrone town, despite security concerns being raised by police.

The PSNI had flagged up issues around anonymity and screening of potential witnesses if the scheduled three week probe into the deaths of John McKearney, 70 and Kevin McKearney, 32, was not held in Belfast.

But relatives of the dead men had urged Northern Ireland's senior coroner John Leckey to hold the inquest, which is scheduled for October, at the venue closest to the family's butcher shop in the village of Moy where the UVF shooting happened in 1992.

Lawyer for Mr Leckey, Fiona Doherty explained: "Submissions have been made by the next of kin to the effect that the inquest should be held at the location closest to the scene."

Mr Leckey, who also decided to hold the inquest without a jury, said he could find "no problem" that would prevent the hearing taking place in Dungannon court house and stressed the courtroom best suited for screening witnesses would be used.

Touching on other outstanding preliminary issues, including delayed police disclosure of sensitive files and the need for certain documentation to be assessed by a government minister for potential national security matters, the coroner made clear to lawyers that he wanted everything to be resolved ahead of the schedule start date on October 6.

"I hope you realise that I would be really, really keen that the inquest proceeded on the 6th of October and there would have to be a good reason why the inquest does not proceed on that date," he said.

The family members were killed after a UVF gunman burst into the business at closing time on January 3, 1992 and opened fire.

Kevin McKearney, a married father-of-four, was killed instantly. His uncle was fatally injured and died three months later in hospital.

No-one has ever been convicted of the murders although one man did plead guilty to a conspiracy to murder charge in the mid 1990s.

The murders were investigated by the police's Historical Enquiries Team (HET) in 2012 amid relatives' claims that a death threat received by the family days before the shooting was not properly investigated by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

The HET concluded that the RUC did not do enough to prevent the killings.

Before his death, two of Kevin McKearney's brothers were killed while taking part in IRA operations.

Two weeks before the butcher shop shootings, Protestant student Robin Farmer was shot dead by the Irish National Liberation Army in his own family shop in Moy.

The attack at the McKearney business was believed to be a reprisal attack.

Months after his death, Kevin McKearney's father-in-law and mother-in-law were also murdered by the UVF.

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