Belfast Telegraph

McKearneys inquest faces delay

An inquest into the murders of an uncle and nephew gunned down by the UVF in their family butcher shop is set to be delayed for another year.

The long awaited probe into the shootings of Kevin McKearney, 32, and his 70-year-old uncle John McKearney in Moy, Co Tyrone, 20 years ago was on stand-by to commence in September.

But Northern Ireland's senior coroner John Leckey said that start date was now highly unlikely after being informed about a number of outstanding issues relating to the case at a preliminary hearing in Belfast. Mr Leckey said: "No longer can McKearney and McKearney be a stand-by inquest for September, that's the reality of it. The reality is 2013."

A UVF gunman burst into the McKearney butcher shop at closing time on January 3 1992 and opened fire. Kevin McKearney, a married father of four, was killed instantly. His uncle John was injured and died three months later in hospital.

The murders are currently being investigated by the police's Historical Enquiries Team (HET) amid claims from relatives that a death threat received by the family days before the shootings was not properly investigated by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

Before his death, two of Kevin McKearney's brothers had been killed while taking part in IRA operations during the troubles. In the weeks before his murder, Protestant student Robin Farmer had been shot dead by the INLA in his own family shop in Moy. The shooting at the McKearney business was believed to be a reprisal attack.

Months after his murder, Kevin McKearney's father in law and mother in law were also murdered by the UVF. During the half hour preliminary inquest, Mr Leckey heard that full disclosure of the police files and notepads had yet to be made to the family.

Certain files had been handed to the family ten years ago but the PSNI also now want to re-examine those documents to see if any names or details need to be blanked out for security reasons before the papers are presented to court. A solicitor for the PSNI said that process could take a number of weeks.

The family is currently awaiting the HET's final report into the shootings. Representing the bereaved relatives, Paul Pearse from Kevin Winters solicitors said the family may have further questions for the HET officers depending on the findings.

Mr Leckey said issues that may arise out of the HET investigation may cause "further delay". He said that with courtroom space at a premium the inquest was more likely to begin next year.

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