Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney exposes the collusion which shielded the perpetrators of the 1994 Loughinisland massacre from justice. The shocking No Stone Unturned finally names the chief suspects while revealing the RUC’s deliberate mishandling of the multiple murder inquiry. Review by David Roy (for Irish News)
The Alex Gibney written and directed No Stone Unturned is a powerful, profoundly disturbing documentary exposing the collusion which fatally tainted the RUC investigation into one of the most notorious incidents of the Troubles.
On June 18 1994, six men were gunned down at The Heights Bar in Loughinisland as they watched the Republic of Ireland play Italy in the World Cup.
Although police quickly recovered the getaway car, along with weapons and items of clothing used in the attack, no-one was ever charged in connection with the atrocity.
Featuring interviews with former police officers, veteran journalists, Police Ombudsman investigators and the legal team representing the victims and their families, the film places the killings in the tit-for-tat context of the times.
Oscar-winner Gibney painstakingly reveals how RUC Special Branch officers apparently knew of the attack 24 hours beforehand, then interfered with the investigation by obstructing inquiries, destroying evidence (the getaway car was actually crushed), withholding crucial information and even warning suspects in advance that they were about to be arrested.
While collusion between paramilitary killers and some members of the security forces during the Troubles is hardly news at this point, it’s still deeply shocking to have the often comically brazen mechanics of such perversions of justice repeatedly laid bare here.
For years, south Down locals have suspected that the Loughinisland killers were prominent members of a notorious UVF cell operating in the area.
No Stone Unturned presents compelling evidence that this is correct - and furthermore that one or more of those involved in the Loughinisland attack were actually Special Branch informers who were also involved in other sectarian murders of the era.
Even the VZ58 assault rifle used in the Heights Bar attack is traced back to a shipment of arms believed to have been smuggled into the north with the aid of notorious British Army ‘supergrass’ and UDA man Brian Nelson.
This gripping documentary begins with a reconstruction of the attack, interwoven with grisly crime scene photographs of the blood-saturated aftermath and the harrowing recollections of Aidan O’Toole, who survived being shot while working behind the bar, and relatives of the six patrons who perished.
We learn that No Stone Unturned is named for words spoken to Clare Rogan by an RUC officer attending the wake for her husband, Adrian, who was murdered in the attack.
“We will leave no stone unturned until we get the perpetrators,” she was told.
Ironically, it has taken an outsider to fully excavate the facts of the Loughinisland murders.
Gibney’s film names the four people police identified as the chief suspects at the time of the Loughinisland attack: the gang leader still lives in south Down and is eventually captured on camera.
Their names were included in a leaked Police Ombudsman-produced draft document dating back to 2008, but redacted for Al Hutchinson’s Police Ombudsman’s Report published in 2011 - which also ruled out collusion in the Loughinisland case.
However, the 2011 report was quashed last year by Dr Michael Maguire’s new Police Ombudsman report, which confirmed that RUC/UVF collusion had indeed been a key factor in the failure to apprehend the killers.
We see the emotional moment when Dr Maguire first presents his verdict to the families of the Loughinisland victims.
“That’s all we ever wanted to know,” responds Adrian Rogan’s tearful daughter, Emma, now Sinn Fein MLA for south Down.
The 2008 draft document also named the RUC’s senior investigating officer. Gibney reveals that he took several weeks’ holiday leave immediately after taking charge of the murders and later retired abroad, refusing to co-operate with the Ombudsman’s investigation.
It’s almost worth seeing this film just to hear ex-Irish News journalist Barry McCaffery’s story of tracking the ex-cop down to a small village in France and presenting him with the leaked Loughinisland info.
Beyond the multitude of damning evidence implicating members of the security forces presented by No Stone Unturned, one of its most incredible revelations is that the wife of the notorious alleged UVF killer who led the Loughinisland attack repeatedly attempted to turn him in after discovering that he was having an affair.
On one occasion, she phoned the RUC to ‘anonymously’ report her husband and his accomplices. Unfortunately, having previously been employed in the canteen of an RUC station, officers recognised her voice and promptly had her arrested.
However, despite also writing a letter naming the killers and admitting her own role in the planning of the killings, the woman was then released without charge.
It’s all pretty damning, depressing stuff, especially as Gibney suggests that justice for the Loughinisland victims and their families may have been deliberately sacrificed by the British government in order to safeguard the 1994 IRA and UVF ceasefires which paved the way for the Good Friday Agreement.
He also reminds us that even if the suspected multiple murderers are now successfully re-investigated and prosecuted, they will only serve a maximum of two years in prison under the terms of the 1998 accord.
Made for an international audience, some minor stylistic choices are likely to grate on local eyes and ears (especially those sensitive to the sound of mournful flutes), but these in no way undermine one of the most powerful documentaries you will see this year.
* No Stone Unturned is currently showing at QFT Belfast and cinemas across Ireland and in London. See https://wildcarddistribution.com for more details.