The Quinn siblings were killed after a petrol bomb attack on their home at the height of the Drumcree standoff in 1998
The only man ever convicted of killing the three Quinn brothers in a sectarian attack at the height of the Drumcree standoff has died suddenly.
Thomas Garfield Gilmour, known as Garfield, died on Friday at his home in the Finvoy Road area of Ballymoney. He was 46.
His family held a private funeral for him at Finvoy Presbyterian Church.
The Quinn brothers, Richard (10), Mark (9) and Jason (8), died when a petrol bomb was thrown through the living room window of their home in Carnany estate in Ballymoney, on July 12, 1998.
The children’s mother Chrissy Quinn had tried to rescue them but after finding their room empty managed to escape the blaze through a window thinking her children had escaped.
Her eldest child Lee survived because he was staying with his grandmother on the night of the attack.
Neighbours heard the children’s cries for help, 10-year-old Richard shouted to a witness that he was trapped and his feet were burning.
Ms Quinn’s partner Raymond Craig and a teenage friend who was sleeping at the house also managed to escape.
The children had been from a mixed relationship — their mother a Catholic and their father a Protestant. They had attended a local Protestant school.
The attack on the Quinn home took place at the height of the Drumcree standoff when Orangemen were banned from walking the Garvaghy Road in Portadown.
It was one of 137 loyalist petrol-bomb attacks on Catholic homes in Northern Ireland in that week alone.
During Gilmour’s murder trial the following year the court was told the petrol bombing occurred at 4.30am. The gang drove around Ballymoney before returning to the Carnany estate 10 minutes later to watch the house burning.
Detective chief superintendent Hamilton Houston, who was the lead investigator, said it was the most horrific case he ever dealt with.
Gilmour was found guilty of three counts of murder in October 1999. But Lord Justice McCollum's verdict was overturned on appeal in June 2000.
The three sitting appeal judges, which included Northern Ireland’s then Lord Chief Justice Sir Robert Carswell, substituted a verdict of manslaughter.
He was sentenced to serve 14 years in prison and was released in 2005.
Gilmour’s death occurred just over two years after the body of his UVF accomplice Raymond Parke was pulled from the River Bann.
He was one of the killer gang implicated in the attack by Gilmour.
The PSNI said at the time that they were investigating the circumstances surrounding the UVF man's death but it was later not deemed to be suspicious.
Parke, from Bushmills in Co Antrim, was named in court as one third of the gang involved.
During Gilmour’s trial it was said that Parke and fellow loyalist Johnny McKay were responsible for the sectarian firebomb attack.
In witness statements to police, Gilmour said that he heard "a sound of breaking glass, like a window breaking", before McKay and Parke returned to his car.
"They were pumped as if they had done a hard workout in the gym," he told RUC officers at the time.
Despite handing over the names of his accomplices, Gilmour was the only person ever convicted of the triple killing.
Grammar school educated and from a well-respected Ballymoney family, many of Gilmour’s relatives worked in health care and were well known in the local church and community.
Despite this he joined the UVF and was a member of the paramilitary group at a time when it was involved in a sectarian war against their Catholic neighbours that intensified every year around the marching season.
The court heard that Gilmour had a dispute with an uncle of the murdered boys and that may have been a partial motive for singling out the Quinn home for attack.
After the murder of the three children there was an outpouring of sympathy for the family from across the world.
US President Bill Clinton extended the sympathy of the America people to the family.
''On behalf of all Americans, we extend our condolences to the family of the three boys, to the community where they lived and to all those affected by this tragedy,” a Whitehouse statement said.
Then First Minister David Trimble called on those still protesting at Portadown to go home.
"Those responsible for these murders and other violence have used those protests as an excuse for an appalling act of barbarity and I must say to the Portadown brethren that the only way they can clearly distance themselves from these murders ... is now to leave the hill at Drumcree parish church."
However, despite pleas from senior Orange Order chiefs, political leaders and both the British and Irish governments, the Drumcree stand-off continued.
The children’s family were also accused of “unfairly” linking the Orange Order to the UVF attack and all had to be rehomed out of the area.
A short notice to Garfield Gilmour on a funeral director’s website read: “Always be loved and remembered by the family circle. Thy will be done.”