| 14.1°C Belfast

Former IRA man Downey held on suspicion of murdering UDR soldiers in 1972 bomb attack

 

Close

John Downey

John Downey

Getty Images

James Eames

James Eames

Alfred Johnston

Alfred Johnston

/

John Downey

A man whose trial for the murders of four soldiers in the IRA's 1982 Hyde Park bombing collapsed amid controversy after he produced a so-called "on the run" letter was last night arrested on suspicion of the murder of two UDR soldiers in 1972.

John Downey (66), who was also arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting an explosion, was apprehended by Garda detectives in Donegal.

The arrest was made under a European Arrest Warrant as part of a joint operation with the PSNI.

Downey is expected to appear in Dublin High Court this afternoon.

Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston and Private James Eames were killed when a device exploded in a car they were checking at Enniskillen's Cherrymount roundabout 46 years ago.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, from the PSNI's Major Investigation Team, said the police investigation into the murders is still "active".

He said yesterday: "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.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

Close

Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston (left) and Private James Eames (right) were killed in the Enniskillen explosion.

Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston (left) and Private James Eames (right) were killed in the Enniskillen explosion.

Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston (left) and Private James Eames (right) were killed in the Enniskillen explosion.

 

"Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston - a father of four - and Private James Eames - a father of three - died when a device exploded in a car they were checking on the Irvinestown Road, Cherrymount, Enniskillen in 1972.

"The PSNI investigation into these murders remains active."

A Garda spokesperson confirmed that its officers, attached to the National Bureau of Criminal Intelligence, had carried out the arrest yesterday evening under a European Arrest Warrant.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) here confirmed that a decision had been taken to prosecute a 66-year-old man in relation to the UDR soldiers' deaths.

Close

The scene following an IRA car bomb blast in Hyde Park (PA)

The scene following an IRA car bomb blast in Hyde Park (PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

The scene following an IRA car bomb blast in Hyde Park (PA)

 

A 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.

"The charges relate to the deaths of two UDR soldiers, Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston and Private James Eames, following the explosion of a device in a car on the Irvinestown Road, Enniskillen on August 25, 1972."

The PPS said extradition proceedings had been initiated in the High Court in Dublin "to seek the extradition of one man from the Republic of Ireland for trial in Northern Ireland".

"One man was subsequently arrested in Co Donegal this (Monday) 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."

The PPS added that the families of the two deceased "have been kept informed of developments".

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

The four soldiers killed in Hyde Park were Trooper Simon Tipper (19), Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young (19), Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright (36), and Lieutenant Anthony Daly (23).

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

That trial at the Old Bailey collapsed because Downey had been given an "on-the-run" letter from former Prime Minister Tony Blair's government - a written assurance that he was not actively wanted by the authorities.

Trial judge Mr Justice Sweeney ruled that Downey's arrest over the Hyde Park bombing, which was made as he travelled through Gatwick airport, and the subsequent prosecution, were an abuse of process.

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

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

Letters informed On The Runs (OTRs) living outside the UK that they were not sought by police, allowing them to return to the jurisdiction but not ruling out future prosecutions if further evidence emerged.

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.

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


Top Videos



Privacy