Belfast Telegraph

Names of murder suspects 'revealed'

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) disclosed the names of murder suspects in Northern Ireland in one of its reports, it was claimed.

A document given to relatives of an uncle and nephew gunned down by the UVF in their family butcher shop contained material which should have been kept secret, a lawyer for the police said.

Kevin McKearney, 32, and his uncle John McKearney, 70, were shot two decades ago in Moy, Co Tyrone.

PSNI barrister Stephen Ritchie said: "There were some issues in the HET report which we consider should remain redacted (hidden), for example the names of a number of suspects are referred to.

"Our position is that the review report should be made available to the victims' family but should not be published in the public domain."

He told the Belfast coroners' court preliminary hearing some parts of the document should be hidden on human rights grounds.

A UVF gunman burst into the McKearney butcher shop at closing time on January 3, 1992 and opened fire. Kevin McKearney, a married father-of-four, was killed instantly. His uncle John was injured and died three months later in hospital.

The murders were investigated by the police's HET amid relatives' claims that a death threat received by the family days before the shooting was not properly investigated by the RUC.

Police preparing for an inquest were on the verge of handing over non-sensitive material to the coroner's court when the HET report prompted them to reconsider.

Before his death, two of Kevin McKearney's brothers were killed while taking part in IRA operations.

Protestant student Robin Farmer was shot dead by the INLA in his own family shop in Moy. The shooting at the McKearney business was believed to be a reprisal attack.

Months after his murder, Kevin McKearney's father-in-law and mother-in-law were also murdered by the UVF.

Family barrister Karen Quinlivan said prior to completing its report the HET had sought advice from senior legal counsel during an "arduous" process considering which information should be withheld.

"There is no prohibition on the family in terms of distribution, we are free to provide it to the media or to anyone who wants to see it."

She added: "Much of it already was in the public domain and was known to the family, the names of the suspects."

She said statements were made in connection with an inquest into the killings up to a decade ago and were also in the public domain.

The next preliminary hearing will be in early December and a provisional date for next October for a full hearing has been set.


From Belfast Telegraph