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Villiers considering probe into Provos' 1987 murders of top judge and wife

By Rebecca Black

Published 27/07/2015

Victims: Judge Maurice Gibson and his wife Lady Cecily
Victims: Judge Maurice Gibson and his wife Lady Cecily

Secretary of State Theresa Villers has not ruled out ordering an inquiry into the murder of a senior High Court judge in 1987, it can be revealed.

Lord Justice Maurice Gibson and his wife Lady Cecily were killed in an IRA bomb as they crossed the border returning home to Drumbo, Co Down, from Dublin.

They had been on holiday to England and travelled home via a Dun Laoghaire ferry.

The couple were met by Garda special forces at the port who tailed them to the border. At Dromad they stopped to thanked the officers before proceeding north, unaccompanied for a short time before they were due to meet their RUC escort.

But they did not make it to the RUC, and instead a remote-controlled bomb in a parked Ford Cortina car was triggered as they passed.

The judge had been involved in a number of prominent trials, including a shoot-to-kill case.

The Provisional IRA in south Armagh claimed responsibility for the murders.

Questions have been asked about how the IRA had such exact information to know when the couple would be passing on the busy border road. The Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin, which was set up to probe claims of collusion between the Garda and IRA in the murder of RUC officers Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, heard claims over the murders of the Gibsons.

The case was one of six controversial murders, shrouded in claims of British or Irish state collusion, which were proposed for further inquiry during peace negotiations in 2001.

Retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory reviewed the killings, which included the deaths of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane and the RUC officers.

The Gibson case was the only one he turned down for an inquiry.

Now the Belfast Telegraph can reveal that Ms Villiers is considering a request for a new inquiry into the deaths of Lord Justice and Lady Gibson.

In a letter seen by this newspaper, she indicated that she would write to the Gibson family when she had made a decision.

Lord Justice Gibson graduated from Queen's University in 1937, was called to the bar in 1938 and became a judge in 1968 and a Lord Chief Justice by 1975. He was the second most senior judge in Northern Ireland at the time of his death.

He had previously owned a holiday home in Donegal which was attacked by the IRA in 1984.

A spokesman for Ms Villiers said her office did not comment on private correspondence.

Meanwhile, another one of the six cases considered by Judge Cory was the murder of Mr Finucane.

In a review of the case Sir Desmond de Silva QC found there were "shocking" levels of state collusion but no overarching state conspiracy in the murder.

Prime Minister David Cameron issued an apology to the Finucane family over the state's role in the murder but insisted that a public inquiry would not shed any new light on the scandal.

The Finucane family are currently pursuing their appeal against Mr Cameron's decision to Europe.

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