Irish Republican News · August 16, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

Elements within the UVF murdered a Catholic child as he shopped for sweets with friends last week and yesterday shot dead a paramilitary rival.

PSNI police have refused to admit that the murder of the 15-year-old Thomas Devlin in the mixed Somerton Road area on Wednesday night was sectarian.

The teenager was stabbed five times in the back as he made his way home with two friends from a garage in north Belfast where they had bought sweets and crisps.

Despite the best efforts of a doctor who stopped at the scene and an ambulance crew, Thomas died at the scene.

His 18-year-old friend was treated in hospital for stab wounds. The other victim, a 16-year-old, was not injured.

The brutal stabbing was initially described as “random” and a sectarian motive for the murder was denied -- despite the fact that three known loyalists were already in custody in connection with the killing.

The PSNI have also refused to comment on reports that a patrol had stopped Thomas’s killers earlier on Wednesday evening.

It has since emerged that those arrested are knwon loyalists with links to the unionist paramilitary ‘Ulster Volunteer Force’. All three were subsequently released, although one was rearrested and charged with the possession of ammunition.

The names of those involved are known throughout the area. One of the three was involved in handing out a ‘punishment beating’ three weeks ago on behalf of the Mount Vernon UVF in north Belfast.

While the PSNI took pains to be photographed laying flowers at the spot where Thomas died, they have not warned Catholics that a sectarian murder gang may now be operating in the area.

Sinn Féin North Belfast Assemblyman Gerry Kelly called on the PSNI to state definitively whether the murder was sectarian.

He said: “This attack bears all the hallmarks of a sectarian one. The area has witnessed a number of attacks over past months which are similar to this.”

Former SDLP mayor of Belfast, Martin Morgan, was also clear. He said: “The PSNI should call this like it is, a random and nakedly sectarian murder.

“What reason would a gang of loyalists have for walking around the Somerton Road with knives, other than to carry out a killing?

“The police has a duty to keep the community informed. By not describing Thomas Devlin’s murder as sectarian they are keeping information from the public which people have a right to know.”

The killing has been disowned by the UVF leadership, although there is evidence that the organisation is in a state of disarray. Among some of the pressures on the organisation are the relentless accusations that some of its leadership are working for British forces, severe internal disputes and the ongoing feud with the rival LVF.

However, a north Belfast man whose son was murdered by the UVF said he had no doubt that the group had killed Thomas.

Raymond McCord whose son Raymond was murdered by the UVF in 1997, said that the identities of Thomas’s killers were well-known.

“The dogs in the street know who killed that young boy,” Mr McCord said.

“The police are saying it was not sectarian - but then why is it that one of those who was questioned and released about the murder was immediately ar-rested and charged with possession of ammunition?”

Mr McCord dismissed any suggestion that the UVF could distance itself from the murder, even if its leadership had not sanctioned the killing.

“The UVF ‘ceasefire’ has killed nearly 30 people since 1994 and not one person has been prosecuted,” he said.

“Every time the UVF is blamed for killing someone all you hear is that it wasn’t sanctioned.”

Unlike the unauthorised killing of Robert McCartney in a Belfast bar-fight by IRA Volunteers who were subsequently expelled, there has been no public outcry over the murder young Thomas.

Thomas’s parents, a mixed couple, Jim Devlin and Penny Holloway, watched their child die within yards of the family home.

“Thomas was just such a shining beacon in our lives and it’s gone and he’s not going to come back,” said his mother.

“The people who killed Thomas have the capacity to kill a child again. They are not going to stop with Thomas.”

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© 2005 Irish Republican News