Concern within the British Crown Forces over MI5’s involvement in a killing campaign has emerged in a report released to families of the victims of the Cappagh killings. It is the first time a state report has confirmed collusion, according to a lawyer for the families.
IRA Volunteers Malcolm Nugent, Dwayne O’Donnell and John Quinn were shot dead at Boyle’s Bar in the village Cappagh, County Tyrone on March 3, 1991. They died when gunmen opened fire on their car outside the bar. A civilian inside the bar, Thomas Armstrong, was also killed.
Loyalist UVF paramilitaries were blamed for the attack, but a report prepared by the disbanded Historical Enquiries Team points to the central involvement of three British soldiers as well as British military intelligence.
Mid-Ulster independent republican councillor Barry Monteith said the revelations in the draft report showed the reality that “the full weight of the British war machine was unleashed in east Tyrone”.
The report reveals that three part-time members of the locally recruited Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) were among four suspects arrested in December 1991, but they were released without charge. The report also shows that they were suspected of involvement in other murders, but no action was taken.
The document reveals how two separate reviews into the murders have been carried out, with one of them focusing on the ‘security service’, another name for MI5.
A joint RUC and British army review carried out in 1991 examined intelligence relating to several murders and attempted murders between 1988 and 1991 “as a result of raised concerns of security service collusion in east Tyrone”.
There have now been calls for full disclosure of state collusion in the series of killings which had its focus on republican east Tyrone.
The report also confirms that two members of the Portadown UVF were arrested on the night of the attack while travelling along the Moy Road from Portadown. It was later reported that one of the men was then UVF commander, ‘King Rat’ Billy Wright. Both men were later released. Wright continued to orchestrate sectarian killings until he was killed himself in 1997.
The report links two rifles used in the ambush to a total of 11 other attacks between 1988 and 1994, including the murders of Charles and Theresa Fox in the Moy in County Tyrone in 1992.
Research published in 2016 by the Belfast-based victims group Relatives for Justice linked the weapons to a total of 18 murders and three attempted murders in the east Tyrone and Armagh area.
Malcolm Nugent’s sister Siobhan Nugent said the families always knew the attack on Boyle’s Bar had all the hallmarks of collusion and they would now consider the contents of the report carefully.
“Obviously for the four families this is very important,” she said, “but we’re a small, tight-knit community.
“It was a family-run bar, that family was affected, and the people who were in the bar that night and who lifted the bodies were affected, too. It’ll be closure for us all,” she said.
She added: “Despite the passing of 29 years we remain determined to establish the truth of what happened that night.”
The linking of the killings to British soldiers is the “first time a state report confirms collusion,” Gavin Booth, lawyer for the families, said.
Mr Booth said that the report exposed “a high level” of collusion in the case between “members of the UDR, loyalist paramilitaries and unknown others.
“The families remain committed to obtaining the truth.”