‘Special Branch in Moy at time of McKearney murders’: shocking new claims

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A NEW report into the murders of two men shot by loyalist paramiltaries 20 years ago has uncovered alarming new evidence.

Kevin McKearney and his elderly uncle Jack McKearney were shot at their family shop in Moy in 1992 by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

Tommy McKearney, Kevin’s brother, has given a qualified welcome to the report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), which concluded that the RUC did not do enough to prevent the murders.

“This report has returned a very alarming verdict on the events leading up to my brother and uncle’s murder”, he told the Tyrone Times.

“Some of the findings have not come as a huge surprise as they have been raised in the past by the family and by elected representatives, such as Jim Canning, Francie Molloy and Father Denis Faul.

“However, some alarming new evidence has emerged that we were not aware of at the time.”

The HET found no evidence of security force collusion but also said it could not allay the family’s suspicions.

The report has identified eight areas of concern about the security force operation, both in the lead up to and the aftermath of the murders.

The McKearney family were well-known in Republican circles and felt they were particularly vulnerable to attack.

Days before the murders, Kevin’s mother Maura had received a telephone call threatening that three men “in white coats” would be killed in Moy Square.

The family, several of whom wore white coats while working at the butchers shop they owned in the centre of the village, reported the call to police through a local councillor.

The HET report has concluded that the RUC “did not formally record or investigate the reported death threat”.

It stated that the McKearney family were given no police advice about their personal security after they were threatened.

“The family informed the RUC of the death threat through local councillor Jim Canning, yet no record was made of this”, said Tommy.

“In spite of the fact that we were obvious targets for a reprisal, no security measures were put in place. A chief detective recommended a security presence to be maintained in Moy, but this was not acted upon.

“In addition, the HET investigation found that while there was no visible security presence in the village, it appears likely that Special Branch were close by at the time of the murder.

“They were able to report details of the getaway car within three minutes of the attack.

“The investigation also revealed that there were 15 police officers within an 8 mile radius of the village, with one officer conducting speed checks in Loughall. This might seem at best a very poor prioritisation by the police service.

“It is clear that there was a dereliction of duty from the RUC.”

Other damning findings included the fact that crucial evidence found in the getaway car has disappeared from Dungannon Police Station, a situation the HET described as ‘unacceptable’.

Neither was the HET able to access records about the whereabouts of army and police patrols on the day of the attack because the evidence was destroyed due to asbestos contamination.

Mr McKearney said the family had yet to decide if they were going to take any further legal action.

“At this point of time, all we want is for the inquest to go ahead and provide some closure to my elderly mother and sister-in-law.

“We want them out of the way, and then we’ll take guidance from our legal team. There are broader questions about the role of the RUC in the conflict, but those will have to be addressed further down the line.”