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Miami Showband massacre: Collusion in murders not ruled out by cold case team

By Anne Madden

A cold case probe into the 1975 Miami Showband massacre was unable to rule out collusion by the British state with loyalist |paramilitaries in one of the most notorious atrocities of the Troubles.

Three members of the hugely popular cabaret band were shot dead at a bogus Army roadblock as they were returning home to Dublin after a gig in Banbridge, Co Down.

Speaking at a Press conference in Dublin yesterday, the bereaved families and survivors said that “the most alarming finding” of the HET report was that it indicated an RUC Special Branch agent was involved in the murders.

The Historical Enquiries Team said that Robin Jackson, a leading mid-Ulster UVF member also known as ‘The Jackal’, claimed that he was tipped off that his fingerprints had been found on a silencer attached to a Luger pistol used in the murders.

Jackson claimed that two RUC officers, one a detective superintendent, had advised him, in Jackson’s words: ‘to clear as there was a wee job up the country that he would be done for’.

The HET report concluded that the murders raised “disturbing questions about collusive and corrupt behaviour” and that it “has found no means to assuage or rebut these concerns and that is a deeply troubling matter”.

The report concurred with the known facts of the case that it was a planned attack by the UVF, which included a number of serving UDR soldiers, most of them wearing British Army uniforms.

The original plan was to plant a bomb on the band’s minibus which would have gone off as they continued their journey south and would have led to the band being portrayed as transporting explosives for the IRA.

However, two of the UVF gang were killed as they tried to plant the bomb covertly when it went off prematurely.

The remaining loyalist gang then opened fire at close range and shot dead three of the band members.

The UVF admitted responsibility for the attack and three men— Thomas Crozier, James McDowell and John Somerville — were later convicted and received life sentences.

The families and survivors said it is believed that at least 10 attackers were involved, which means five perpetrators were never brought to justice.

Showband survivor, Stephen Travers said: “We believe the only conclusion possible arising from the HET report is that one of the most prolific loyalist murderers of the conflict was an RUC Special Branch agent and was involved in the Miami Showband attack.”

The bereaved and survivors said they intend to pursue the issue with the authorities in Northern Ireland.

Jackson was allowed by state forces to kill with impunity, Sinn Fein has said.

John O'Dowd, the party's Upper Bann MLA, said the now dead loyalist was a known security forces’ agent and a blind eye was turned to his reign of terror.

“This speaks volumes about the British state's involvement in the conflict and rather than claim, as they did, that they were impartial observers or some sort of peace keeper, they were in fact up to their necks in facilitating and possibly encouraging sectarian killings and much more,” he said.

Mr O'Dowd blamed the Government's reluctance to support an independent international truth commission, on the potential fall out from revelations about agents like Jackson.

Dolores Kelly, SDLP MLA for Upper Bann, said the HET report on the Miami Showband killings underlined the need for a proper process to deal with the past.

“There has been a long-held belief that there were people in the security forces, including the RUC, who were involved in brutal crimes,” she said.

“This report confirms that and is a vindication of the families' campaign.”

Ms Kelly said it also confirmed very serious failures in the RUC's investigation of serious crimes.

“The enormous question about why Robin Jackson was allowed to carry out this terror and inflict so much pain on victims over such a long period of time must be answered by the State as we cannot help but think if he had been put behind bars some people's lives may have been spared,” she added.

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