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Landmark action as families to sue loyalist church deacon and the state over murder of their loved ones

By Suzanne Breen

Published 20/08/2015

Portadown loyalist Alan Oliver talking about his paramilitary past
Portadown loyalist Alan Oliver talking about his paramilitary past
Charlie Fox
Tess Fox

The families of murder victims are launching an unprecedented legal action against the police, Ministry of Defence and a leading loyalist whom they allege killed their loved ones, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The families are set to sue the state and Portadown loyalist, Alan Oliver, whom they claim was a British intelligence service agent, for the murder of their relatives.

A legal document obtained by this newspaper outlines their plan to issue writs against the PSNI, MoD and Oliver for "unlawful killing, negligence, breach of statutory duty and misfeasance in public affairs".

Oliver (46), a born-again Christian, is a deacon in Portadown Elim Church. He has previously denied being an informer named in court papers as a UVF gunman.

The case is being taken by the family of teenager Eileen Duffy, who was one of three Catholics shot dead in a mobile shop in Craigavon in 1991, and by the family of Co Tyrone couple Tess and Charlie Fox, who were slaughtered by the same UVF gang a year later. Both families have been granted legal aid to pursue their case. Anthony Fox, the son of Charles and Tess, last night said: "We are delighted that Alan Oliver is at last going to see the inside of a courtroom.

"We believe that our parents were slaughtered by a sectarian serial killer, and we are also finally getting the chance to hold the state to account for their shameful activities."

Eileen Duffy's brother Brendan said: "We hope that, after all these years, we can secure justice for Eileen.

"She was only 19 when they took away her life. She was buried in the dress she had bought to go to dances. We have no doubt that the gunman was a British agent."

Both shootings were carried out by the UVF's Mid-Ulster Brigade led by Billy Wright. Oliver is a former close associate of Wright and his sidekick Mark Swinger Fulton.

Charlie Fox (63) and his wife Tess (53) were shot dead in their home in the Moy, Co Tyrone, on the night of September 6, 1992 as they prepared to go to bed. The couple had no political involvement but their 23-year-old son Patrick had been jailed for possessing an IRA bomb a week earlier.

The couple's daughter, Bernadette, found her parents' bodies the next morning. She said: "Daddy was still in his pyjamas. Most of his face had been blown away. Mammy had been shot several times and her jaw was broken.

"She'd taken the sweeping brush to the gunman in a vain effort to protect herself. He broke her jaw before shooting her."

Son Anthony Fox said: "We were just forgotten about. We got no compensation, no inquest, nothing at all. The politicians ignored us too and that includes Sinn Fein. There was a hierarchy of victims and we were on the lowest rung."

The family said the police's forensic examination of the murder scene was so poor that they left two bullet heads behind.

Eileen Duffy was shot dead along with Katrina Rennie (16) and Brian Frizzell (29) as she worked behind the counter in a mobile shop in Craigavon's nationalist Drumbeg Estate on March 28, 1991.

The shooting was carried out by a masked gunman in a military-style jacket who had pulled up in a van.

Brendan Duffy said: "I found Eileen slumped on the floor of the shop, shot in the head. Her face was badly swollen and blood was pumping out of her head and ears. I tried to resuscitate her but in my heart, I knew she was gone.

"The police took almost half an hour to get to the scene when it was a five-minute walk from the police station."

Brendan accused the police of failing to investigate the murder adequately and said the only contact the family had with officers after the night of the massacre was when "we were asked if we wanted Eileen's blood-drenched clothes back".

Brendan said that the mobile shop massacre, like the shooting of the Foxes and other killings by the UVF's Mid-Ulster Brigade, fitted "a clear pattern of a heavy police presence in the area which disappeared just before the attack and then a negligible police investigation into the murders".

He added: "Anywhere else in the world, the authorities would do everything possible to convict the killer of two teenage girls and a young man, but this is Northern Ireland and our search for justice was thwarted at every twist and turn with a massive cover-up."

Describing his sister, Brendan said: "She was only 11 months younger than me so we were very close. We started school the same day and made our First Communion and Confirmation together. She was the kindest-hearted wee girl you'd ever meet. She'd give you her last penny. She was always laughing and wanting to make people happy. She saw bad in nobody."

Unlike other alleged members of the UVF's Mid-Ulster Brigade, Alan Oliver never became a household name. He was previously named in court papers as the gunman responsible for the mobile shop murders.

Transcripts alleged that as he fled the scene of the slaughter, he radioed fellow UVF members to say his victims were "tatty bread" - rhyming slang for "dead".

Last year, Oliver denied holding secret talks in order to cut a deal with the Historical Enquiries Team.

Brendan Duffy said: "Alan Oliver claims to now be a Christian. If that's so, he needs to come clean and tell us who his handlers were."

Anthony Fox said: "We are calling on Elim Church to get rid of Alan Oliver. If he has reformed, then he should tell the truth about what he's done."

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