On the anniversary of the murder of four men in County Tyrone 30 years ago this week, new information has emerged which appears to confirm long-held suspicions that British-trained soldiers were involved in the ambush.
IRA Volunteers Malcolm Nugent, Dwayne O’Donnell and John Quinn were shot dead along with civilian Thomas Armstrong at Boyle’s Bar in Cappagh on March 3, 1991.
The three were killed after they drove into the pub car park as a loyalist death squad lay in wait. Although wounded, a fourth man who was travelling in the vehicle escaped with his life.
The attack was later claimed by the UVF, but in December 1991 three part-time members of the British Army’s UDR (Ulster Defence Regiment) were among four suspects arrested. A fourth man, a relative of one of the UDR men, was also detained.
However, all those arrested were later released without charge.
Now a document, believed to have been produced by the British Army’s ‘Weapon Intelligence’ section, dated seven days after the murders, provides details of how the gun attack was carried out and the weapons used.
According to the document unearthed by the Irish News, military chiefs described the killings as “professionally carried out” and dissimilar to other loyalist actions.
They wrote: “From investigation of the scene it was found that the groupings of the bursts of fire were quiet exceptional for a PPM shoot and the targets had been well acquired.”
The reference to PPM is believed to be military shorthand for Protestant Paramilitaries.
The report also suggests “a lot of ground recce must have occurred before this shoot as the perpetrators struck deep at the heart of a republican area”.
It suggests that John Quinn, who was driving, had only recently bought the car the victims were travelling in.
“It must also be assumed that ‘dickers’ [lookouts] were used to confirm the impending arrival of Quinn and his vehicle, supporting theories that he was an intended target,” it states.
Lawyer Gavin Booth, of Phoenix Law, said: “It’s wholly inadequate for families to find that information is available in the public domain about their loved ones but has never been provided to them.”
Briege O’Donnell, mother of Dwayne O’Donnell, said her family has been failed by the state.
“We are now seeking a full independent investigation and have issued civil proceedings to achieve this to get justice for our loved ones and we will continue to do that in their memory,” she said.
Malcolm Nugent’s sister Siobhan Nugent said the families of those killed in Cappagh “have always suspected collusion” in the case.
“Now on the 30th anniversary of the murders each one of the families remain as determined as ever to discover exactly what happened that night,” she said.
“We will not be found wanting, either now or in the future, in our pursuit of the truth.”