Belfast Telegraph

Ex-IRA man John Downey arrested in connection with 1972 murder of two UDR officers

By Gareth Cross

Former IRA man John Downey was arrested by Garda in Donegal on Monday on suspicion of the murder of two Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldiers in 1972.

He was also arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting an explosion.

Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston, a father of 4, and Private James Eames, a father of 3, died when a device exploded in a car they were checking on the Irvinestown Road, Cherrymount, Enniskillen on August 25, 1972.

Downey (66) was arrested under a European Arrest Warrant as part of a joint operation with the PSNI.

He is expected to appear at Dublin High Court on Tuesday afternoon.

Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has said that a decision has been taken to prosecute a 66-year-old man for the murders.

In 2014 Downey stood trial for the 1982 Hyde Park bombings in which four soldiers were killed and a number of people were injured.

An IRA car bomb exploded as the soldiers made their way from their Kensington barracks to a Changing Of The Guard ceremony at Horse Guards Parade.

The trial collapsed because Downey had been mistakenly awarded an "on-the-run" letter by the UK Government which said he was not wanted by police.

Trial judge Mr Justice Sweeney ruled that Downey could not be prosecuted in relation to the bombing.

Families of the victims of the IRA bombing are currently taking civil action against Downey.

He has always denied being involved in the Hyde Park attack.

Downey was one of nearly 200 republicans given assurances they were not wanted in connection with crimes as a result of a deal done between Sinn Fein and Tony Blair's Labour government as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.

Following the collapse of Downey's trial then Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the Hallett Review, which concluded that the scheme was not an amnesty, but had no proper structure or policy in place.

In 2014 then Secretary of State Theresa Villiers told Westminster that people who received such letters should no longer place any reliance on them.

Police and the UK government have previously said that new evidence could lead to charges against those who received the letters.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, from the PSNI’s Major Investigation Team, said: “The PSNI has been liaising closely with An Garda Siochana and today’s arrest demonstrates the benefits of joint working between police forces and other national partner agencies.

“The PSNI investigation into these murders remains active.”

A Northern Ireland PPS spokesperson said: "Following careful consideration of all available evidence, a decision has been taken to prosecute one person for the offence of murder and for aiding and abetting the causing of an explosion.

"Extradition proceedings were initiated in the High Court in Dublin on Monday November 5, to seek the extradition of one man from the Republic of Ireland for trial in Northern Ireland.

"One man was subsequently arrested in County Donegal this evening and is due to appear in court in Dublin tomorrow.

"As proceedings are now live and before a Court, we will not be making further comment on this case at this point."

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