Two decades after the murder of Fergal ‘Ricky’ McCusker by the LVF, his family have said they and other victims across the area “deserve answers, truth and accountability”.
Mr McCusker was shot dead in Maghera, County Derry as he made his way home from a night out on January 18 1998, a soft Catholic target for a notorious loyalist murder gang.
The attack came just weeks after the INLA’s prison assassination of LVF leader Billy Wright, and at a time of extreme tension in the area. No-one has ever been charged and there has never been an inquest. Four men were arrested but were later released.
Mr McCusker’s killing is believed to have been by the same gang responsible for the murder of GAA official Sean Brown in nearby Bellaghy, as well as other sectarian killings in the area.
Next weekend, the McCusker family have organised a memorial event to mark Fergal’s 20th Anniversary. His 71-year-old mother Christine fears that she might not see justice for Fergal.
“Fergal was so full of life and fun,” she said. “He lived for football and his family. He especially loved his nephews and nieces. He was so caring and thoughtful and was really hard working. He would have made someone a great husband but sadly he never got the chance.”
She added: “Fergal had no interest in politics, he was just an innocent young man. He didn’t have a bad bone in his body. Another five minutes later and he would have been home and that is very hard to accept.
“When a loved one is taken from you in such a cold and cruel way, I don’t think you can ever really get over that. Fergal’s murder will never ever leave me. You keep up appearances and keep going as best you can, but inside I am broken. If it wasn’t for my family and my faith, I wouldn’t be here. My family keep me going, especially the little ones.”
The mother-of-nine explained that her family are forced to walk past the spot were Fergal’s body was recovered every day.
“When I go to Mass or down to the shops, I have to walk past the youth club, the place where Fergal was found and it breaks my heart. It never goes out of my mind.”
In 2002, the family were dealt another shocking blow when Fergal’s father Jimmy passed away.
“When Jimmy passed away, that was a very difficult time for us all. I don’t think Jimmy really ever got over Fergal’s murder. His daddy died with a broken heart,” said Christine.
She continued: “It has been 20 years but no justice has been served for Fergal. I am 71 years-old and in my time, I don’t believe that the truth will ever be uncovered, Fergal will never get the justice he deserves and that breaks my heart.
“Time is no healer, it is still as raw for us today as they day it happened. Its special occasions that are the hardest - birthdays, weddings and Christmas. There are always two missing- Fergal and his daddy.”
Fergal’s youngest brother, Finbar said that at the time of his brother’s murder, some media outlets had reported that Fergal was some way involved with republican armed groups.
“One even said that he had been involved in transporting arms back from the States,” he said. “All that was British propaganda. Fergal was completely innocent, he was not involved in anything. He was targeted purely because he was a catholic.
“The fact that Fergal’s body lay for over six hours without being removed was an insult to our family. It wasn’t like they didn’t know, the RUC got numerous calls but they said at the time they couldn’t attend because of the security threat,” said Finbar.
Finbar, who had also been out socialising in Maghera that night, said that there was no RUC members present in the south Derry town that evening.
“Previously in the run up to Fergal’s murder there was a very high presence of RUC officers in town. There were checkpoints outside the GAC club, and further down the street. You couldn’t get moving, they were harassing everyone. Yet the night that Fergal was murdered there was not one officer to be seen. It was a total set-up. And that’s what makes us even more determined to get justice for Fergal and we will keep fighting until we get it. If they think we are going to disappear, they can think again,” he warned.
Fergal’s brother James added: “We are hoping that we will get justice for Fergal while Mammy is still with us. To her, that is all that matters. Fergal has never had an inquest, over the past 20 years we have been met with holdup after holdup until any possibility of an inquest was blocked completely. As a family we have decided to make a stand now. It is now time for the truth, it is time for justice.
“We want to appeal to the local community to get behind us, particularly the younger generation, who may not be aware of the circumstances in which Fergal was taken from us and how our family has been treated over the past 20 years,” he said.
* The memorial weekend will begin on Friday, January 26 with a candlelit vigil, which will take place outside Fairhill Youth Club in Maghera. This will be followed by a silent procession to the Glen Centre, where a talk will be held detailing the nature of Fergal’s death and subsequent events.