Belfast Telegraph

75 killings and still no inquests

By Adrian Rutherford

Inquests into 75 of Northern Ireland's most controversial deaths are still outstanding - including cases which date back more than four decades.

Many of the killings were carried out by the security forces in circumstances which are bitterly disputed, or involve allegations of State collusion with paramilitaries.

In some cases relatives have gone to their graves without knowing the full circumstances of their loved ones' deaths.

The average wait for so-called legacy inquests to be concluded now stands at 20 years and seven months.

Earlier this year Northern Ireland's Senior Coroner admitted he was embarrassed at the length of time some hearings were taking.

It has also been claimed that the Government could be breaching European law by not holding timely inquests.

In most cases the delays are caused by legal disputes over the disclosure of sensitive files.

While families want full disclosure, security forces have generally requested that key details are blacked out.

Figures released by the Coroners Service show that 46 inquests relating to 75 deaths in Northern Ireland remain outstanding.

About half were opened shortly after the deaths, but then adjourned and never concluded.

Others were reopened in recent years at the direction of John Larkin, the Attorney General.

The oldest outstanding case relates to the death of Bernard Watt, who was shot by soldiers in Ardoyne in early 1971.

In February Senior Coroner John Leckey criticised the time some inquests were taking.

It came after a preliminary hearing was told full inquests into the deaths of republicans and police officers killed in disputed circumstances in Mid Ulster 30 years ago may not begin for months or even years.

"Looking at how difficult inquests have been held in England I feel embarrassed - the London bombings, Princess Diana, we all know these big inquests," he told the hearing.

"They have dealt with similar issues and the inquests have been held."

Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights commits member states to carrying out independent, transparent and timely investigations into the deaths of citizens.

In 2012 the European Court of Human Rights ruled the Government had violated the rights of two families by failing to hold an inquest into the deaths of two IRA men for 22 years.

Dessie Grew and Martin McCaughey were shot dead by the SAS near Loughgall in October 1990. However, it was 2012 before their inquest finally took place.

European judges warned that police and soldiers responsible for killings here could "benefit from virtual impunity" because of the length of the delays.

SDLP MLA Alban Maginness, who is the party's justice spokesman and a barrister, said European law dictated that relatives had a right to know how people died.

"Under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the State must take all reasonable efforts to investigate the deaths of people, particularly if they have been involved in them," he said.

"Therefore, there is a legal obligation for the Government to assist the Coroner's Court in making sure that these investigations are satisfactory."

Mr Maginness said that where governments do not make every effort to assist the court, they could be in breach of Article Two.

"There is a very heavy burden on the State to carry out proper investigation and part of that is the inquest process," he added.

However, unionists fear the system could be manipulated to create a new narrative of the past.

The Ulster Unionist Party's paper on dealing with the past warns that historical inquests "run the risk of establishing a narrative of actions by security force personnel, without a reciprocal narrative concerning terrorist motivation and activity, or any due attention to the security and political context of the time".

Earlier this year the Belfast Telegraph revealed the Department of Justice was pushing for the Haass-proposed Historical Investigations Unit to be established now.

A paper from the department outlines a plan for a possible new Legacy Inquest Unit at an estimated cost of £30m.

Innocents whose relatives are being denied justice


Ten Protestant workmen were shot dead by a group calling itself the Republican Action Force in January 1976.

The men were taking their usual route home from a textile factory when their bus was stopped. The gunmen asked the men to identify their religion. The only Catholic was told to leave.

The others were lined up and shot. One man, Alan Black, was hit 18 times but survived.

Last August the Attorney General ordered the coroner to open a new inquest. John Larkin said new evidence had emerged through the HET investigation.

At a preliminary hearing in February, Senior Coroner John Leckey said part of the inquest's role was to try to identify who carried out the shootings.


Roseann Mallon was shot dead by loyalist gunmen who opened fire on a house at Cullenrammer Road outside Dungannon in May 1994.

The 76-year-old pensioner was shot multiple times in the attack, which was carried out by the UVF.

It later emerged that the Army was conducting a surveillance operation on a nearby house owned by her nephew.

An Army surveillance camera was found close to the scene.

An inquest opened in April 2002 and more than a dozen hearings took place over the next 18 months before proceedings ground to a halt.

A full inquest finally started last November, but was adjourned and is due to reopen on May 7 -- almost 20 years to the day of Miss Mallon's death.


Loyalist gunmen walked into the family butcher's shop in Moy in January 1992 and opened fire.

Kevin McKearney, who had been working in the shop for 10 years, died instantly.

The gunmen continued firing at his 70-year-old uncle Jack, who was fatally wounded and died in April.

Before his death, two of Kevin McKearney's brothers were killed while taking part in IRA operations. Protestant student Robin Farmer had earlier been shot dead by the INLA in his own family shop in Moy.

The shooting at the McKearney business premises was believed to be a reprisal attack.

In September 2012 a report by the Historical Enquiries Team concluded the RUC did not do enough to prevent the McKearneys' murders.


One of the oldest outstanding cases, 11-year-old Francis Rowntree was killed in April 1972 after being struck by a rubber bullet fired by the security forces.

The schoolboy, who was from the Falls area of west Belfast, died after being fatally injured in disputed circumstances near Divis Flats.

He was hit by a rubber bullet fired by soldiers on April 20 during rioting in the area, and died two days later.

Controversy surrounds the shooting, with disputed claims about whether the young boy was fired on directly, or hit by a ricochet, and if the bullet had been altered to potentially cause more injury.

The inquest was reopened on the orders of the Attorney General.


Eleven people -- including a Catholic priest and a mother-of-eight -- were shot dead in Ballymurphy over a three-day period following the introduction of internment.

Although inquests were held a year after the August 1971 shootings, they were branded a sham by relatives.

The original inquests had returned open verdicts.

In November 2011 Attorney General John Larkin ordered new hearings.

The inquest into one of the 11 who died, Pat McCarthy, will not reopen. His case will remain closed with the finding that he died of a heart attack after being intimidated by troops.

A preliminary hearing was held in March and a further hearing is scheduled for early next month.

The 46 separate cases left in legal limbo with grieving families no nearer truth

1. Rosann Mallon

Died: May 8, 1994

The pensioner was shot dead when loyalist gunmen opened fire on a house near Dungannon.

2. Jack McKearney and Kevin McKearney

Died: January 3 and April 4, 1992

Kevin McKearney and his elderly uncle Jack were shot dead at their family butcher's shop in Moy by the UVF.

3. Neil John McConville

Died: April 29, 2003

Shot dead by the PSNI - the first fatality since the organisation replaced the RUC - following a chase near Lisburn.

4. Daniel Doherty and William Fleming

Died: December 6, 1984

The two IRA men were killed in the grounds of Gransha Hospital in Londonderry by an undercover Army unit.

5. Gareth Paul O'Connor

Died: June 11, 2005

He disappeared on his way to Dundalk Garda station where he was due to report for bail. His body was recovered from Newry Canal two years later.

6. Daniel Stephen Osvaldo McColgan

Died: January 12, 2002

The 20-year-old Catholic postman was murdered by the UDA as he arrived for work in Rathcoole.

7. Michael James Ryan, Anthony Patrick Doris and Laurence McNally

Died: J une 3, 1991

The IRA trio - who were on "active service" - died in a hail of gunfire after being ambushed as they travelled through Coagh in a stolen car.

8. Gerard Martin Slane

Died: September 23, 1988

Father-of-three was shot dead by the UDA at his west Belfast home, leading to claims of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces.

9. Samuel James Marshall

Died: March 7, 1990

Sinn Fein member was shot dead as he was walking to his home in Lurgan's Kilwilkee estate after signing bail.

10. John Quinn, Allan McCloy and Paul Hamilton

Died: October 27, 1982

The three RUC officers were killed by an IRA landmine near Lurgan as they passed in an armoured police car.

11. James Gervaise McKerr, Eugene Toman and John Frederick Burns

Died: November 11, 1982

The three died when the RUC opened fire on their car, which police claimed failed to stop at a roadblock, near Lurgan.

12. Michael Tighe

Died: November 24, 1982

The teenager was killed by the RUC at a hay shed near Craigavon where rifles were being stored.

13. Roderick Carroll and Peter James Martin (Seamus) Grew

Died: December 12, 1982

The INLA men were shot when the car they were driving in was fired on by the RUC near Armagh.

14. Gerard Laurence Casey

Died: April 4, 1989

The IRA man was shot by the UVF as he slept at his home outside Rasharkin.

15. Gerard Lawlor

Died: July 22, 2002

The 19-year-old was returning home from the Bellevue Arms to the Whitewell area of north Belfast when he was shot by loyalists.

16. Seamus Patrick Dillon

Died: December 28, 1997

He was gunned down outside the Glengannon Hotel near Dungannon by the Loyalist Volunteer Force hours after the murder of Billy Wright at the Maze.

17. Liam Paul Thompson

Died: April 27, 1994

UDA gunmen opened fire on a car containing two Catholic men, killing the 25-year-old and wounding his friend.

18. Richard Jameson

Died: January 10, 2000

The businessman - the commander of the Mid Ulster UVF - was shot dead at close range by a lone gunman as he drove to his home outside Portadown.

19. Patrick Daniel Vincent, Sean O'Farrell, Peter Paul Clancy and Kevin Barry O'Donnell

Died: February 16, 1992

The four IRA men were ambushed by the SAS at Clonoe Chapel after an attack on Coalisland RUC barracks.

20. Sean Patrick Brown

Died: May 12, 1997

He was abducted by loyalists as he locked up the Wolfe Tone GAA club at Bellaghy, shot multiple times in the head and his body dumped 10 miles away.

21. Raymond McCord

Died: November 9, 1997

The 22-year-old, a former RAF man, was beaten to death and his body dumped in a quarry in Newtownabbey.

22. Francis Patrick Bradley

Died: February 18, 1986

The 20-year-old was shot dead in disputed circumstances by the SAS near Toomebridge.

23. Father Hugh Mullan

Francis Joseph Quinn

Died: August 9, 1971

24. Joan Connolly

Daniel Teggart

Noel Phillips

Joseph Murphy

Died: August 9, 10 and 22, 1971

25. Edward Doherty

Died August 10, 1971

26. John Laverty

Joseph Corr

Died August 11 and 27, 1971

27. John James McKerr

Died August 20, 1971

The killings took place in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast over a three-day period. A priest and a mother-of- eight were among the civilians shot by the Parachute Regiment.

28. Bernard Watt

Died: February 6, 1971

Soldiers shot him in the chest near his home in the Ardoyne area a short time after a military personnel carrier was hit by nail and petrol bombs.

29. Francis Rowntree

Died: April 22, 1972

The 11-year-old was hit by a rubber bullet fired by a soldier in west Belfast.

30. Manus Deery

Died: May 19, 1972

The 15-year-old was shot in the Bogside. The Army claimed a soldier in a lookout post fired at what appeared to be a gunman, missed, and the ricochet struck the teenager.

31. Kevin Anthony McAlorum

Died: June 3, 2004

The former prisoner was shot dead in his car as children arrived for classes at a primary school in Derriaghy.

32. John Coulter and Robert Mahood

Died: August 21, 2000

The men were shot on the Crumlin Road as they sat in a Land Rover outside a bookmaker's shop during a loyalist feud.

33. Henry Thornton

Died: August 7, 1971

Shot by the Army when the van he was driving past Springfield Road barracks in West Belfast backfired.

34. John Bryans

Robert Chambers

Reginald Chapman

Walter Chapman

Robert Freeburn

Joseph Leemon

John McConville

James McWhirter

Robert Samuel Walker

Kenneth Worton

Died: January 5, 1976

The 10 were all textile factory staff who were shot when an IRA gang ambushed their minibus near Kingsmills, Co Armagh.

35. Marion Brown

Died: June 10, 1972

Shot by loyalists at Roden Street in Belfast moments after kissing her boyfriend goodbye.

36. James (aka Seamus) Bradley

Died: July 31, 1972

The 19-year-old was shot in Derry as thousands of soldiers launched a major military operation, Operation Motorman, to retake the 'no-go' areas of the city.

37. Kathleen Thompson

Died: November 6, 1971

The mother-of-six was shot in the garden of her Creggan home in 1971 during an Army raid on the estate. She was found by her 12-year-old daughter.

38. Daniel Carson

Died: November 1, 1973

The 29-year-old Catholic shopworker was shot by the UVF as he left the Shankill Road.

39. Terence McDaid

Died: May 10, 1988

The 29-year-old Catholic died from gunshot wounds to the head after loyalist gunmen broke into his home off the Antrim Road in Belfast.

40. Fergal McCusker

Died: January 18, 1998

Abducted by the LVF as he left a bar in the centre of Maghera, shot and dumped behind a youth club.

41. Craig McCausland

Died: July 11, 2005

The father-of-one was shot by the UVF at his home in north Belfast. He died later in the Royal Victoria Hospital.

42. Joseph Parker

Died: December 11, 1972

The 25-year-old was shot in disputed circumstances when soldiers opened fire at a community centre in Ardoyne during a disco two weeks before Christmas.

43. Elizabeth McDonald

John Gerald McGleenan

Died: August 16, 1976

The pair died in the UVF bombing of the Step Inn in Keady, Co Armagh, in August 1976.

44. Thomas Friel

Died: May 22, 1973

The 21-year-old was hit by a rubber bullet in Creggan after returning from a night out. He died four days later.

45. Charles Fox

Teresa Fox

Died: September 6, 1992

The husband and wife were shot by the UVF at their home near Moy.

46. Leonardo Anthony Norney

Died: September 13, 1975

The 17-year-old, from west Belfast, was shot by the Army.







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