Irish Republican News · December 21, 2012
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Family of UDA ‘romper room’ victim seek answers


The family of a Catholic murder victim are calling for a new investigation into his death amid claims that his killers were informers protected by the police and British intelligence.

The family of Pat Benstead, who was tortured and murdered by the UDA, has called on police ombudsman Michael Maguire to carry out an urgent investigation into his death.

Mr Benstead’s naked body was discovered dumped in an alleyway on December 2 1972 following one of the most brutal murders in the conflict.

A cross had been burned into his back alongside the letters ‘IRA’ and the number ‘4’. He had been shot twice in the head.

Mr Benstead, who had a learning difficulty, suffered a severe beating and his attackers bound him hand and foot.

Horrific burn marks, believed to have been inflicted with a hot iron, were later found on the dead man’s body, hands and feet.

From the Short Strand in east Belfast, Mr Benstead was last seen in the Falls Road area in the west of the city after enjoying a quiet drink with workmates in the Beehive bar.

He was abducted by an east Belfast-based UDA gang that called itself the ‘G4 Unit’ as he made his way home across the city on foot.

The number ‘4’ later found burned into his back is believed to have been a reference to the ‘G4 Unit’ which was attached to the organisation’s ‘G Company’ in east Belfast.

The vicious loyalist murder gang was linked to several attacks on innocent Catholics which involved the prolonged torture of victims before they were shot dead.

Mr Benstead’s family have voiced fears that the hit squad responsible for killing the 32-year-old may have been heavily infiltrated by RUC Special Branch and British military intelligence which therefore turned a blind eye to the attacks it carried out.

The Historical Enquiries Team, which completed an investigation in 2010, failed to examine potential links to the murder.

The full role of former UDA chief Edward ‘Ned’ McCreery, who ran the ‘G4 Unit’ and former SAS member Albert ‘Ginger’ Baker had never been explained fully.

Both McCreery and Baker are believed to have been British agents at various times and were directly involved in other so-called ‘romper room’ murders in 1972 and early 1973.

Three years before the Shankill Butchers claimed their first victim in 1975, Mr Benstead’s death shocked even the most battle-hardened observers because of its grisly nature.

At the inquest a coroner said the case was among the “most horrifying” he had ever come across.

The Benstead family have labelled a Historical Enquiries Team probe into the circumstances of the murder as “flawed” and have called on the police ombudsman to review the case urgently.

Mr Benstead’s brother Colum said that despite the family approaching the police ombudsman in 2006, nothing had been done to date.

“We believe the HET report was completely flawed,” he said.

“Two people in the police ombudsman’s office said to me that people were highly resistant to look into my brothers murder because it would open up a huge can of worms.

“One said to me it had the potential to be massive.”

The campaigning brother said it was essential that the police ombudsman begin to investigate as soon as possible.

“When I first brought this to Nuala O’Loan she said was willing to look into it but then Al Hutchinson took over,” Mr Benstead said.

“Me and two of my sons met with him and he told us it could take 20 years before they would get to it.

“Most of the people who were in volved in my brother’s murder would be in their sixties and seventies now. We don’t have 20 years.

“Myself and a close friend of mine, Arthur Fegan, have collected a lot of information and I have provided the police ombudsman with the names of people we believe were involved and yet they haven’t done anything to date.

“We also gave them the name of a man who survived a ‘romper room’ attack an received compensation in 1975.

“It’s obvious given the passage of time they need to speak to him and other potential witnesses from that time.

“We believe there was collusion in his murder and we need them to investigate the circumstances now.”

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© 2012 Irish Republican News