Republican News · Thursday 13 June 1997

[An Phoblacht]

Shankill Butcher shot dead

ROBERT `BASHER' BATES, A ONE TIME MEMBER of the notorious Shankill Butcher gang was shot dead in Belfast on Wednesday morning 11 June. It is believed he was killed by loyalists.

Bates was hit three times in the head as he unlocked the door of the EPIC (ex-prisoners in the Community) centre on Belfast's Upper Woodvale Road at about 9am and died almost immediately. No one has claimed responsibility for the shooting and the INLA, in a statement a few hours later, denied being involved.

Immediately after the shooting Loyalist spokespersons were warning that the loyalist ceasefire was in danger of collapse. ``This has brought us to absolute crisis point,'' warned UDP politician Gary McMichael, while Pastor Ian Major, Bates's own pastor said, ``I would fear that the loyalist response to this would be marked''.

Meanwhile Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey called for calm, ``I am appealing for calm and vigilance amongst the nationalist community following the shooting. The shooting once again highlights the vacuum created by the absence of a credible and meaningful peace process''.

  • Robert `Basher' Bates was sentenced to life in 1979 for his part in ten killings carried out by the notorious Shankill Butchers. Altogether 19 Catholics were killed during the mid-70s by the gang who picked up Catholics at random mostly on the streets of North Belfast and killed them with knives, hatchets and meat cleavers. He was also responsible for killing a number of loyalists in internal feuds.

    While in prison Bates was said to have found God and become a ``born again Christian''.

    Bates was on the point of being released from prison on license, having started on a work-out scheme in October of last year.


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