The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled on Tuesday that evidence of British Crown force collusion in the murder of eight men in South Armagh in the 1970s had not properly been investigated.

The case had to be taken to Europe by the families of the eight men following the refusal of the British government to allow a proper investigation into revelations on collusion made by a former member of the RUC police in 1999.

The court ruled unanimously that in all the cases there had been a violation of Article 2 [right to life] of the European Convention on Human Rights due to the lack of independence of the RUC which handled the investigation into the murders.

Former RUC man John Weir said collusion lay behind the killings in a television programme.

He revealed that a farmhouse owned by an RUC man was used as a base from which to carry out paramilitary attacks on Catholics.

Weir also alleged that a part-time member of the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment was among those responsible for one of the attacks and that a getaway car was provided by another RUC man.

The case related to the deaths of eight men from four families and the wounding of a ninth:

:: Colm McCartney, who was murdered at Altnamackin in August 1975.

:: Trevor Brecknell, who was murdered at Donnelly`s Bar in Silverbridge :: in December 1975.

:: Brothers John, Brian and Anthony Reavey, murdered at Whitecross in :: January 1976.

:: Joseph, Barry and Declan O`Dowd, murdered on the same evening as the :: Reavey brothers.

:: The wounding of Michael McGrath in a gun attack on the Rock Bar in :: Keady in June 1976.

The PSNI took over from the RUC in November 2001 and the investigation was eventually handed over to the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) of the London Metropolitan Police.

The court said the HET had now apparently reached the conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to proceed further, although it did not appear that any formal decision was ever issued.

The court awarded all applicants 5,000 Euro in respect of non-pecuniary damage and 5,000 Euro in respect of costs and expenses -- with the exception of the Brecknell family where the award was 51,000 Euro.

Sinn Féin MP for the area Conor Murphy said: “This unanimous ruling today highlights the lack of independence within the Royal Ulster Constabulary investigation into the allegations of collusion . . . The families of all those killed down the years, not just in south Armagh but all of the victims of British state collusion, deserve the truth about their loved ones.”

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