The father of two brothers murdered by loyalist paramilitaries has been refused a judicial review seeking a public inquiry into suspected Crown force collusion with the killers.
Gerard and Rory Cairns, aged 22 and 18, were shot dead when gunmen broke into their home at Bleary, near Portadown, in October 1993. No-one has ever been brought to justice for the killings, which were carried out by the UVF’s notorious Mid Ulster unit, headed at the time by Billy Wright.
Following a television expose on the murders of his sons, Eamon Cairns wanted the High Court to order the British Direct Ruler to set up a tribunal. In the programme, one of Wright’s former gang members, Laurence Maguire, revealed some RUC men provided information to help the death squad target potential victims.
He named Wright and Robin Jackson, both deceased loyalist leaders and both believed to have been state agents, as accompanying him in a previous bid to kill members of the family Refusing the challenge, the judge said that the British Direct Ruler has adopted a “wait and see approach” while the investigation continues.
Following the verdict Mr Cairns said that he has no faith in the PSNI’s ability or willingness to investigate his sons’ killings.
He said: “It is both shameful and inhumane that no officer of the PSNI has come to explain to my family what steps it has taken to investigate the admissions made by Laurence Maguire more than 16 months ago, that he conspired with others to murder me and my sons, based on information supplied by the security forces.”
Mr Cairns’ lawyer, Fearghal Shields of Madden and Finucane, added: “We are very disappointed by the High Court’s decision and will closely study the judgment with a view to further litigation.”
Meanwhile, the brother of a man believed to have been shot dead by another suspected UVF killer has launched his own legal challenge over the PSNI’s failure to give the case priority.
Portadown man Alan Oliver, who is suspected of being a British agent, has previously been linked to a UVF gang that carried out dozens of sectarian murders in the Mid Ulster area.
Loyalist James Thomas Harper identified Oliver as the gunman when three people were shot dead in a notorious UVF attack on a mobile shop in the Drumbeg estate in Craigavon in March 1991.
The victims included teenagers Eileen Duffy and Katrina Rennie, and 29-year-old Brian Frizzell. Harper was later convicted for his part in the triple murder and given a life sentence.
A legal challenge has now been launched by Pat Frizzell, brother of Brian, against the PSNI after it refused to confirm where the investigation sits in its caseload and its failure to give the murder probe priority.
His lawyer Owen Beattie, of KRW Law, said the challenge has wider implications and that legal papers had been lodged last week.
“This goes to a failure to pursue a key suspect in not just this case but a raft of other killings in Mid Ulster at this time in the conflict,” he said.
In a separate development, the widow of one of three Provisional IRA Volunteers shot dead in an SAS ambush has cleared the first stage in her legal battle to ensure an investigation into RUC involvement is finally completed.
Roisin Harte’s husband Gerard Harte, his brother Martin, and Brian Mullan died when soldiers opened fire on them at Drumnakilly, County Tyrone in 1988. Relatives of the three IRA men attacked suspect they were victims of a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy in operation at the time.
In 2018 the ombudsman launched an investigation into how the case was handled by the RUC/PSNI police, but due to claimed ‘budgeting’ issues, the inquiries have yet to be completed.
Mrs Harte was granted leave at the High Court to seek a judicial review of the failure to properly fund the Police Ombudsman’s probe.