Calls for fresh probe into 1993 UVF murders of Gerry and Rory Cairns after claims of RUC collusion
Loyalist gunmen were actively targeting relatives of republicans during the 1990s and were being protected from prosecution, a BBC NI documentary will claim tonight.
The revelations have led to calls for the investigation into the murders of young brothers Gerry and Rory Cairns, who were killed by the UVF in Bleary, near Lurgan, in 1993 to be reopened.
The allegations are made in the sixth episode of Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History, which focuses on the activities of notorious Mid-Ulster UVF leader Billy Wright at a time when the number being killed by loyalists was outstripping those killed by the IRA.
It claims there was a "shocking failure" to stop Wright and his gang in the 1990s, and the BBC has found the number of relatives of republicans targeted by loyalists rose significantly.
Laurence Maguire, a former loyalist prisoner and one of three UVF gunmen in Wright's notorious murder gang, told how Wright was being fed information "by police officers meeting with him".
He alleges that police gave information that there were what he describes as "legitimate targets".
"If somebody changed their car he would have the new car registration and what the car was, if they had more than one house he would have several addresses for where they were staying at. He went up alleyways to meet them," he said.
In a previously unheard recording of Wright, who went on to form the LVF, he reveals: "Readily available for us in the 1990s was the intelligence we needed to attack the people who needed to be attacked.
"Indeed, members of the security forces have said this, that we done what the Army and the police couldn't do. We put the East Tyrone IRA on the run.
"It brought home to the IRA that never again would there be a Teebane. Never again would there be an Enniskillen and whenever the reality of eight or nine people dying came home to its own community it wasn't long until internal pressure within the republican movement and nationalists' community changed its direction."
Maguire also provides new evidence into the 1993 killing of the Cairns brothers on October 28, 1993, revealing the plan had been to murder the brothers the year before.
Their cousin, Sheena Campbell, had been murdered a year earlier.
The Queen's University law student had been killed by the UVF in Botanic Avenue, Belfast, in 1992. She had been a leading figure in Sinn Fein, credited with devising the party's electoral strategy.
At the time police said the Cairns' killings were "random", but Maguire has now claimed: "It was more to do with them being related to her. That family was bound to suffer."
He added: "We were told there were legitimate targets, the police gave information that there were legitimate targets and I just didn't see them as anything but legitimate targets."
Wright and his predecessor as head of Mid-Ulster UVF, Robin Jackson, had both been arrested in connection with the murders, but no charges were brought.
Speaking of setting out to carry out the killings 12 months previously, Maguire said: "Robin was the main one running things that night. Wright was there. He was always there.
"The plan was to murder all three of the Cairns brothers. The instruction was to kill any male found in the house."
The attack was aborted at the last minute, but one year later, when Maguire was in jail, the plan set out by Jackson and Wright was carried out.
Eamon and Sheila Cairns have always maintained that Wright and Jackson were involved in the murder of their sons, but after taking their case to then Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan, the finding was that there was no evidence to suggest they had any involvement, nor was there any evidence of agents or collusion.
Now, though, Baroness O'Loan says she would have no hesitation in reopening the investigation. "It's just very shocking that the year before they had decided they were going to kill these boys. If that evidence had been available it would have changed a lot of things," she said.
"I would want to go back and see what else could be found and what else could lead you to a possible identification of the gunmen who killed Rory and Gerry."
She also revealed that significant evidence was missing when the Cairns brought their case to her. "We looked at all the pages which were available from police. The exhibits were all missing at this stage, which was a matter of concern. All that had gone, wasn't to be found at all, with no explanation. We know who was arrested but how or why they were arrested there is no evidence. There is no paper trail. It was a very strange way to record an investigation if you were going to prosecute. There was so much missing."
Police told BBC Spotlight there should be no hiding place for any police officer who broke the law and any evidence of wrongdoing should be independently investigated.