The first inquest into the 1998 murder of a County Derry man opened in Belfast on Monday.
Fergal McCusker, 29, from Maghera, was killed in a gun attack claimed by the unionist paramilitary LVF.
No one has ever been prosecuted or convicted over his death. His mother Christina remembered her son as “having touched lives like an angel on earth”.
Counsel for the coroner Paddy McGurgan revealed that delays in the disclosure of some material had put back the start of the inquest by several months.
The hearing was told that Mr McCusker had spent time working in the United States, returning to Maghera on January 3. He was shot dead at back of a local youth centre at around 1.30am on January 18 1998.
While he was described as single at the time of his death, he had a girlfriend in the United States, who the inquest heard had been fully expecting him to return.
In terms of his final movements, the inquest heard he had played football during the day on January 17 before going to Regan’s Bar and then Maggie’s Bar in the centre of Maghera where he stayed until shortly after 1am.
It is believed he started walking home, a route that would have taken him past the youth club, when he was confronted by three individuals, and evidence indicates he was shot dead at the back of the building.
The RUC police received a report of a shooting, the inquest heard, but did not attend the scene until the morning. While the inquest heard the British army had been requested to fly a helicopter over the scene, that request was declined due to rainy weather. Mr McCusker’s body was discovered just before 9am.
The Loyalist Volunteer Force claimed responsibility for killing in an anonymous call to press. Suspects were arrested and interviewed but no one has ever been prosecuted or convicted for any involvement in Mr McCusker’s death.
In the subsequent years, the McCusker family have raised questions about the police investigation, submitting a complaint to the Police Ombudsman in 2004.
Meanwhile, the Springhill/Westrock Massacre families have confirmed their inquest is still set to commence on Monday, 20th February 2023. In 1972, the British Army shot dead five civilians including three teenagers and a Catholic priest in the Upper Springfield area. All victims were innocent and unarmed at the time of their deaths.
Preliminary hearings have heard that of a total of 63 potential British military witnesses were initially identified, 19 were deceased, 11 were eliminated and 24 are cooperating with proceedings and 9 failed to engage.
Mr Butler’s granddaughter Natasha said: “This inquest is important for our family for achieving truth and accountability into my granda’s death. It’s our chance to give him a voice and clear his good name.”