The son of a man killed by loyalists fifty years ago believes he was the victim of a ‘counter gang’ set up by the British Army to carry out atrocities.
Patrick Heenan (pictured) was killed after a grenade was thrown into his work van as he made his way to work in east Belfast on February 1 1973.
The murder as carried out by the UDA’s Baker/McCreery gang, led by a former British soldier Albert ‘Ginger’ Baker. He received a life sentence for killing Mr Heenan and three other men. He admitted to links to British military intelligence.
The first major double agent to testify against other loyalists as a ‘supergrass’, Baker was a member of the infamous UDA unit which carried out a series of depraved ‘romper room’ murders in Belfast in the early 1970s.
The gang is thought to have been responsible for killing of as many as 22 people, including up to eight in an effective torture chamber where some of the most brutal killings of the conflict took place.
Baker is believed to have been paid off and moved to England under an assumed name.
In 2015 Mr Heenan’s widow Mary, who is now aged 96, launched legal action against the British Ministry of Defence and General Frank Kitson, known for developing a ‘counter insurgency’ strategy involving both random and targeted killings.
Kitson is believed to have been responsible for the specific British army policy that resulted in its deep links with loyalist gangs in 1970s which evolved into ‘counter gangs’ and death squads.
The former British soldier also helped develop ‘dirty tricks’ psychological operations and the creation of covert military units such as the serial-killing Military Reaction Force (MRF).
Mr Heenan’s son Eugene said his family is in no doubt his father was killed by a ‘counter gang’.
Speaking of the British army’s strategy the late 1960s, he said:
“Baker was sent to train with the special forces in America and with the SAS, sent back here, and he was operating. And the whole reason was every time the IRA did something they would have killed a Catholic to try and turn the nationalist people against the IRA.”
Mr Heenan said his family did not accept two reports produced by the now defunct police Historical Enquiries Team (HET) into his father’s murder.
At one meeting, HET officials said Baker “is living a new life with a new family who know nothing of his past”.
“He was obviously paid off and living in England somewhere,” he added.