A Historical Enquiries Team report into the British/loyalist multiple killing of three south Armagh brothers in 1976 has finally confirmed that the murders were purely sectarian.
The report, obtained by UTV television news, says John Martin, Brian and Anthony Reavey were entirely innocent victims and not linked to IRA activity, as was claimed in the Westminster parliament by Ian Paisley Sr.
The three Catholic brothers were shot dead by six masked men who burst into their home in Whitecross in January 1976. The killings have been linked to the ‘Glennane gang’, which involved collusion between the loyalist UVF, British military and RUC police.
Another brother, Eugene Reavey, battled for decades to clear his name after he was wrongly accused of masterminding a bloody reprisal by local nationalists 24 hours later.
In 1999 former DUP leader Ian Paisley Sr used Westminster parliamentary privilege to accuse Eugene Reavey of being behind the subsequent Kingsmill attack.
But the Historical Enquiries Team investigation has now completely exonerated the entire Reavey family.
In its final report, the HET says: “There is no doubt that John Martin, Brian and Anthony Reavey were entirely innocent victims.
“Research by HET confirms that they did not have any criminal convictions or links to any paramilitary group.
“No member of the Reavey family had any verified links to any paramilitary group, contrary to later speculation.”
Eugene Reavey said it had been an incredibly difficult experience for their family.
“It’s not very nice having people turning their back on you walking away from you whispering behind your back.”
“I always believed they were innocent. It was a matter of staying with the HET and working with them and finally this is the endgame for us really.”
Eugene was in Kingsmills at the time of the attack, but he was on his way to the morgue to pick up the bodies of his brothers.
The Crown forces had ‘locked down’ the area and Eugene tried to clear traffic, so he could get to the morgue.
“I was not there for any sinister reason. I was there because I was on my way,” he told UTV.
In 2007, the Reavey family received an apology from the Historical Enquiries Team for their treatment by members of the Crown forces.
Eugene Reavey says he now wants an apology from Ian Paisley Sr for the comments he made in 1999, and is also seeking an apology by the new justice minister David Ford through the assembly.
Eugene Reavey has called for Dr Paisley “to do the decent thing”.
“I know he was fed a bum steer when he was given the document but it’s not too late for him to apologise to my mother. Forget about me and everyone else I just want him to apologise to my mother,” he said.
It has now been revealed that the innocence of the Reavey family was known by the RUC (later PSNI) police from the start.
According to the HET report, the individual in charge of the RUC ‘investigation’ said: “No way were the Reaveys involved in any paramilitary activities whatsoever.”
Four guns were used in the Reavey brothers’ killings.
Some of these weapons were also used in ten murders, including the killing of three men at Donnelly’s bar in Silverbridge in 1975, and numerous other atrocities,
No-one has been brought to justice for the murders of the Reavey brothers.
The new MP for North Antrim, Ian Paisley jnr, said his father would not be commenting.