UVF gun attack victim takes judical review against police

UVF gun attack victim takes judical review against police

25 October 2017

A VICTIM of a UVF gun attack on a Kilcoo pub 25 years ago has cleared the first hurdle in a legal challenge against the PSNI over what he claims is a failure to investigate the gang responsible.

John McEvoy has been given leave to seek a judicial review into the PSNI’s failure to ensure an independent investigation into his attempted murder in the Thierafurth Inn on November 19, 1992.

The attack on the isolated bar on the shores on Lough Island Reavy claimed the life of Peter McCormack, a 42 year-old Catholic schoolteacher from nearby Drumena Road.

Mr McCormack had been one of four men sitting at the bar when two men burst in, one armed with a pump action shotgun and the other with a 9mm pistol.

Customers were about to begin a series of darts and pool matches for charity when the attack took place.

Mr McCormack was hit in the back by a bullet from the pistol and died behind the bar where he managed to crawl before collapsing. Three other men, including Mr McEvoy, were injured.

At an inquest in October 1994, the coroner described Mr McCormack as “a completely innocent man.”

The attack was admitted by the UVF who claimed in a statement they were targeting the IRA’s south Down commander and named a man who was in the bar at the time but was not injured.

Mr McEvoy’s legal action has been triggered by an investigation into another UVF shooting which bore striking similarities with the attack on the Thierafurth Inn — the Loughinisland massacre on June 18, 1994.

A report by the Police Ombudsman into the Loughinisland attack, which was published over a year ago, highlighted the activities of a UVF gang that had been operating in the south Down area since 1986.

The gang, which by the time of Peter McCormack’s murder numbered six men, had strong links with the UVF in East Belfast. 

The gang was in it’s infancy when it’s first attack took place in January 1986 when a known member of a 

Castlewellan-based IRA cell was shot and injured in the yard of a house near the Twelve Arches between Dundrum and Newcastle.

The gang was developing links with the UVF in east Belfast at the time of the murder of Dundrum businessman, Jack Kielty on January 25, 1988. Although it was the UDA who carried out the attack, several members of the south Down UVF gang were implicated in the murder.

By November 1992 the gang had organised themselves into an operational unit of the UVF at the disposal of a Belfast commander.

On November 6, they made their first attempt to murder the head of the IRA in south Down by attacking the Thierafurth Inn. However, the attack was called off due to security force activity in the area and the gunmen’s car was found abandoned near Tollymore Forest Park, although the security forces did not realise it was linked to a murder plan.

Almost two weeks later the gang members returned to continue their mission which resulted in Mr McCormack’s death.

The two gunmen who attacked the Thierafurth and their driver were then brought into Belfast on December 20 of the same year to carry out a sectarian murder.

Housing Executive maintenance worker, Martin Lavery, had his five year-old daughter on his knee in their Crumlin Road home when two gunmen burst in and shot him four times in the chest.

At least two members of the south Down UVF gang are believed to have been involved in the attack in Loughinisland in 1994, along with a known Loyalist gunman from Belfast.

In his probe into Loughinisland the Ombudsman said the police failed to robustly challenge the escalating activities of the south Down UVF unit.

It was the publication of the Ombudsman’s report, and the claims that the UVF gang had not been investigated properly, that spurred Mr McEvoy to mount his legal challenge.

His solicitor, Gavin Booth, of KRW Law, said the challenge had been brought over “the failure of the PSNI to investigate his attempted murder.”

“In light of the publication of the report, the survivors and their families expected an announcement that the PSNI would start an investigation into these attacks,” said Mr Booth.

“This did not happen and after numerous letters to the chief constable we initiated a judicial review to challenge this failing.

“We believe that an independent effective investigation must happen,” he said.

In court on Friday, Mr Justice McCloskey confirmed the case had cleared the first stage, stating: “I grant permission to apply for judicial review.”

South Down MP, Chris Hazzard, and his Sinn Fein colleague, Emma Rogan, MLA, have welcomed the decision of Mr Justice McCloskey to grant leave for a judicial review.

Speaking about the Ombudsman’s report, Mr Hazzard said it was a groundbreaking document that not only examined the killings in Loughinisland but made a wider examination which included other attacks.

“The report not only identified those responsible for these killings, but also made public the fact that some of those people were state informers,” he said. 

“Unbelievably no attempts were ever made to prosecute these men and the police still refuse to effectively investigate this case.”

Ms Rogan, whose father Adrian died in the Loughinisland attack, said Mr McEvoy was a casualty in the Thierafurth shooting and is challenging the state to hold an independent investigation.

“In light of this, I welcome the judge’s decision to grant leave for judicial review on Friday. The matter will now proceed to a full hearing early next year.”