Belfast Telegraph

Family seek probe into police handling of father's murder

By Donna Deeney

The family of a man murdered by loyalist paramilitaries 40 years ago have lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman over the original investigation into his death.

John Toland was at his work as a barman in the Happy Landing Bar in Eglinton, Co Londonderry, when he was killed.

He was shot four times in the back after two men walked into the pub on November 22, 1976.

He died aged 36, leaving a wife and seven young children. The UDA later admitted responsibility, claiming Mr Toland was passing information he garnered from customers in the bar to the IRA.

A report by the Historical Enquires Team (HET) in 2012 found this to be entirely without foundation or substance. The HET also found evidence of collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries in the death of Mr Toland, and a number of other murders in Londonderry around the same time. These included James Loughrey, who was shot a few days previously.

Mr Toland's family, working with the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) in Derry, want the Police Ombudsman to look at the original RUC investigation of the murder and want to know why the so-called brigadier of the UDA in the city at the time was never questioned.

Danny Toland, Mr Toland's son, said: "The HET found evidence that the murder of our father was planned and ordered by the then UDA brigadier in Derry. "This man, a former B Special according to the HET, also ordered the murder of James Loughrey.

"We want the truth and to know what was the role of the UDA commander in Derry at the time of these murders, was he an agent who reported to his handlers, and could these murders have been prevented?"

Mr Toland's widow Marie Newton added: "John was taken from us at 36 years of age. He left behind seven children.

"We never got over his loss and if it hadn't been for the late Fr Daly, as he was then, I don't know how I would have got through this.

"John worked every hour that God gave him to provide for his family. He was an amazing husband, a doting father and a caring son.

"We aren't bitter or full of hate, but John deserves answers and we deserve answers."

In the initial RUC investigation nobody was charged for any offences in relation to Mr Toland's murder.

However, there was a significant development in 1986 when Leonard Campbell, who was in prison for armed robbery, contacted the RUC and admitted his involvement in the murders of Mr Toland and two other men.

Leonard Campbell along with two others - Colin Gray and David Hamilton - admitted their involvement when interviewed, and were subsequently charged with Mr Toland's murder.

Sara Duddy of the PFC added: "The local UDA 'brigadier', a former B Special, was known to be close to a number of local UDR men. He left the city under unexplained circumstances in 1982.

"According to the HET, his details were put on the Police National Computer yet he visited the north west on several occasions and was never questioned.

"We believe that Special Branch was well aware of the activities of this gang and their security force links, but chose to cover this up.

"The Toland family deserve answers even at this late stage."

Belfast Telegraph


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