The family of Seamus Ludlow, who was shot dead in County Louth in 1976, have announced that an independent police investigation is to take place into his murder in 1976.
The family have led a campaign spanning decades to find the truth of the events surrounding his murder.
Family lawyer Gavin Booth said the investigation will be led by Jon Boutcher, a former police chief in England. The new investigation is to be part of a broader investigation of murders carried out by the loyalist Glenanne gang, which operated in collusion with British forces.
Speaking at the Lisdoo Arms in county Louth, where the forester was last seen alive, Mr Booth also revealed that a witness has come forward with “significant information” in the last two weeks.
He said: “Seamus was a quiet man. He was a family man and occasionally visited pubs in Dundalk and was known for his charitable work here.
“He was not political and was not interested in the conflict in the north and worked full time and was a devoted family man.”
Joined by members of Mr Ludlow’s family, Mr Booth said the investigation will look at the actions of all those who played a role in the murder. “This includes the gardai, the British Army, the SAS, the RUC and any unknown others, including those suspects that were let go,” he said.
In 1979, by the Gardaí in the 26 Counties and the RUC police in the North had the names of four men accused of being involved in Mr Ludlow’s killing, but this information was not pursued at the time. This included members of the loyalist paramilitary UVF/Red Hand Commando and the British Army’s UDR. In 1998, two men are believed to have made confessions about their involvement in the murder, but still no action was taken.
The family also believe Gardaí were complicit in spreading false rumours that Mr Ludlow was killed for being an IRA informer, and that documents about the case, two bullets and items of the victim’s clothing may have been deliberately “lost” by state agencies.
A parliamentary committee in Dublin recommended more than 10 years ago that two commissions of investigation be held into the murder and subsequent events, after a judicial report damned the original Garda probe. Neither of the recommendations have been implemented by the British government.
Mr Booth said however, that where evidence becomes available, arrests can still be made. He said work on the investigation had already begun by Boutcher’s team.
“He expects it to take around two to three years and hopefully that will finally give the family the full truth, the full facts into what happened to Seamus Ludlow on that night in 1976.”
He also spoke about the new evidence that has emerged in recent weeks.
“It’s quite large in volume and it’s an independent witness that has come forward and we’re hoping that that will form part of the investigation and play a major part in uncovering what happened,” Mr Booth said
He called for the Dublin government to fully commit to supporting the Ludlow family.
“The family are seeking the truth and the full aspects as to what happened. This is not witch-hunt - we looking for the full facts of the circumstances.”
Michael Donegan, Mr Ludlow’s nephew, said the new evidence could be an “earthquake”.
“We are very pleased that after 45 years we finally have a police team that wants to find the answers that we have been looking for.
“We have been let down time and time again by the gardai in the past and also by the RUC. Both forces had information which they sat on.
“The story that is in the public domain is not the true story, there is a different one we want to find and allow us to find closure. This is not to put people in jail, I have no sympathy for the killers but they are old men and putting them in jail for two years is not going to bring Seamus back.”