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Slain teen's family sues MoD over stolen gun used by UVF killers

By Donna Deeney

Published 26/06/2015

Murdered: Henry Cunningham
Murdered: Henry Cunningham

The family of a 16-year-old murdered on the M2 motorway by loyalist paramilitaries more than 40 years ago is suing the Ministry of Defence after it transpired the gun used in the killing was stolen from a UDR base in Lurgan.

Henry Cunningham, a Presbyterian from Co Donegal, died when the UVF fired nearly 40 bullets into the van he and five others were travelling home from work in at Glengormley in August 1973.

Evidence from the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) in Londonderry coupled with Historical Enquiries Team information has shown one of the weapons used - a Sterling sub-machine-gun - had been stolen from the UDR armoury.

The PFC is holding official documents which detail how the MoD was not only aware of the loss of the weapon, but also suspected that UDR members who were also members of the Mid-Ulster UVF were involved in the thefts.

And now human rights lawyers Kevin Winters has started legal proceedings against the MoD on the grounds of misfeasance.

The van in which the six workmen of mixed religion were travelling in was being driven by Henry's brother Herbert.

Now, 42 years later, Herbert and Robert Cunningham, who were both injured in the attack, said the memories are just as fresh and the need to get justice for their brother is just as important.

Herbert said: "We had just passed under the flyover coming up the M2 motorway when I heard the bangs, the rattles and the bullets flying into the van.

"I glanced in the mirror and I could see these three boys with the guns, and they weren't small guns, but it was the flames flying out of the three guns. The tyres all burst in the van, I shouted to the boys in the back. I thought they were all dead, no one answered me, then Henry called to me 'I'm hit' and he just slumped over in the van."

Robert has no doubt they were targeted because the van had a Republic of Ireland registration number plate.

"We had been working in Glengormley for about three-and-a-half months," he said. "We were a mixed bunch of people, but I believe they picked us because of the registration plate on the van.

"I have no doubt they did their homework and would have known we were mixed religion, but they didn't care.

"We have never had justice; there was an inquest held three weeks after Henry died which was rushed through because they wanted it covered up, so we are trying to get answers now.

"We have no interest in money, that is not what this is about, it is just about the justice."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: "The MoD will continue to co-operate fully with all judicial processes."

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