Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Claudy bombing: Police must probe claims after emergence of new evidence

Exclusive: Suspicion of a cover-up

Revelations: Civil rights leader Ivan Cooper
Revelations: Civil rights leader Ivan Cooper

The PSNI is facing strong demands to re-open its investigation into the Claudy bombing following the emergence of important new evidence about the IRA atrocity.

A Unionist politician will this week tell police that if they don't resume the inquiry, relatives of the nine victims will believe there is a massive cover-up.

New evidence about the 1972 bombing emerged in a Sunday Life report a fortnight ago in which former civil rights' leader Ivan Cooper revealed that shortly after the atrocity one of the bombers had broken down and confessed to him.

Mr Cooper said he had been told everything about the bombing and he named four IRA men to this newspaper whom he said were involved. Two of the men still live in Co Derry. One is a retired primary school teacher.

Police suspended the Claudy investigation last month and told the victims' relatives it would resume only if new information came to light.

VITAL

TUV Ballymoney councillor William Blair will this week meet a senior detective to demand the investigation is urgently re-opened. “Vital new information is now on the table,” he said.

“We have just heard from Ivan Cooper that for 41 years the names of those involved in this terrible atrocity have been known to him and the police but nothing was done about it.

“No charges were brought against those who planted bombs which blew nine men, women and children to smithereens. The bombers were free to continue their lives while the families of the dead have struggled for decades with overwhelming heartbreak.”

On July 31, 1972 three no-warning car-bombs exploded in the Co Derry village killing five Catholics and four Protestants.

The youngest victim, eight-year-old Kathryn Eakin, was cleaning the windows of her family's grocery store. Two of the child's relatives will accompany

Councillor Blair to meet police this week.

Mr Cooper, a former Stormont MP and SDLP co-founder, told Sunday Life how an IRA man, plagued by guilt, had made the confession in his Maghera constituency office.

“He told me everything, who was involved and all the rest of it,” Mr Cooper said. The politician set up a meeting weeks later between the guilt-ridden bomber and the then RUC Chief Superintendent for Derry, Frank Lagan.

The meeting took place but the information relayed to police about the bombing was never acted upon. Chief Supt Lagan died in 2005.

INFORMER

Councillor Blair said: “Police had first-class information from the IRA bomber and yet they didn't use it to bring the perpetrators to justice. We must be told why.

“Did Frank Lagan recruit the bomber to work as an informer instead?”

Two of the men named by Mr Cooper are dead. Fr James Chesney parked the car bomb which killed Kathryn Eakin. He was the director of operations of the IRA's South Derry brigade. Local publican Robert McLaughlin helped plan the attack.

The IRA has never admitted responsibility for Claudy. The bombers tried to ring warnings from telephones which weren't working due to previous bomb damage to the phone exchange.

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