Belfast Telegraph

Loyalist councillor reluctantly testifies at 1973 sectarian murder trial

The deputy mayor of Newtownabbey has told a court that he is a “reluctant witness” after being called to give evidence in a historical murder trial.

Loyalist councillor Tommy Kirkham had been threatened with arrest if he did not appear to give evidence into the sectarian murder of north Belfast Catholic chip shop owner Alfredo Fusco 37 years ago.

On trial is convicted loyalist killer Robert James Clarke, who denies murdering 53-year-old Mr Fusco, claiming that he could not have fired the fatal shots because he had lost two fingers years |earlier in an industrial accident.

The court had been told that Mr Kirkham and William Kernoghan, a convicted murderer and bomber, had both been in the York Road cafe at the time of the murder.

Yesterday Mr Kirkham told Belfast Crown Court that he is “a reluctant witness as I do not |believe in the process of the Historical Enquiries Team”, which had investigated the Fusco killing.

He was to add later that he never accepted the police inquiry team as he believed “that the conflict is over and these are matters of the past”.

However, Mr Justice McLaughlin told him while he was “entitled to his views” the councillor was in court to give evidence and was expected to do so.

The deputy mayor of Newtownabbey replied that he had made a statement at the time of what he had witnessed and had confirmed that statement to police last year.

Mr Kirkham then told the defence QC Frank O'Donoghue that he did not know Clarke, nor was he in a position to say that he knew “the identity of the gunman”.

Mr Kirkham said he was a 16-year-old teenager on bail at the time and had been in the cafe with his then friend Mr Kernoghan getting something to eat before going out to a disco when the gunmen struck.

Asked by Mr O'Donoghue if he could describe the gunmen, other than what he said in his statement, he repeated that he had “confirmed the statement”.

Clarke was arrested in August last year for Mr Fusco's murder after a review of the case by the |police Historical Enquiries Team was able to identify his prints found on a door through which he was shot.

Final submissions will be made in the case before trial judge Mr Justice McLaughlin reserves his verdict.

Belfast Telegraph

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