A woman whose husband was murdered by the IRA in 1981 says she knew for 32 years that the man responsible lived one mile away from her home.
On Thursday Seamus Martin Kearney, 57, from Maghera, was given a life sentence for murdering RUC reservist John Proctor, 25, as he left hospital visiting his new-born son. A tariff for Kearney’s sentence has not been set but he might only serve two years under the terms of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.
Yesterday Mr Proctor’s widow, June McMullan – who heard the shots that killed her husband – told the News Letter: “For 32 years he would drive by my place of work. I would see him. He would just look at you, knowing he knew who I was and that I knew who he was.”
June revealed that Kearney had been acquitted of another murder. She rejects the suggestion of Attorney General John Larkin of a possible amnesty for killings prior to 1998.
“Surely everyone deserves their day in court. After 32 years it was good to hear the judge say he was guilty. I am relieved it is all over.”
We welcomed the verdict. Now we can move on with our lives. At last we have got justice for Johnnie.
“Surely it is better for people like Kearney to come forward and confess what they did?
“Serving two years in jail and getting it over with is better than looking over your shoulder for 32 years like Kearney has been doing, wondering when there will be a knock on the door.
“He lives only one mile away from us. There were two other attacks in the village that had been linked to him.
“In the first one he tried to shoot a lad who was on his way home, but the gun jammed. He was tried, but not convicted.
“Three weeks later he shot a young fella dead. Again he was tried and acquitted.
“Then on the day of that fella’s funeral he shot my husband dead.”
In 1984 Kearney was jailed for the attempted murder of UDR soldiers who came under fire from the same rifle used to kill Constable Proctor.
“Kearney did not say a word in court this week,” June said.
“He refused to take the stand to defend himself or to be cross-examined.”
June first heard his name linked to her husband the day after he was murdered.
The judge this week was certain Kearney was involved in the murder as his DNA was found on a cigarette found at the scene.
However, the judge said he was not certain if Kearney had shot the weapon.
But June was in no doubt.
“I believe he pulled the trigger. I was convinced for 32 years it was him that done it. For 32 years he would drive by my place of work.
“I would see him. He would just look at you, knowing he knew who I was and that I knew who he was.”
She rejected any possibility of a truth and reconciliation process that might have seen him held accountable, but with a suspended sentence.
“I would not like to see him walk free. Murder is murder and life is life.”
Her son Johnnie told the News Letter he was apprehensive of the outcome of the case.
“I didn’t dare to hope he would be convicted,” he said. “I am still on a high.”
He hit back at Sinn Fein objections that the conviction was “vindicative”.
“Sinn Fein are pressing for soldiers from Bloody Sunday to be prosecuted. Yet when an IRA man is convicted they say he should walk free.
“Justice is justice for any innocent family – whether they are Protestant or Catholic.”
In a statement, Sinn Fein MLA Ian Milne called for Kearney to be released back to his family.
“The decision to pursue Seamus on these historic charges was wrong, vindictive, unnecessary and counterproductive,” he said.
“It is ironic at a time when the Haass process is coming to a conclusion in dealing with legacy issues that a republican is being imprisoned on historic charges.”
TUV leader Jim Allister responded that “there is no sell-by date on justice” and decried the two-year sentence.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the Sinn Fein comments “were appalling and insenstive”.
He accused Sinn Fein of double standards for demanding the prosecutions of soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday.
Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International said the conviction “demonstrates clearly that, at least in some cases, it is possible to achieve a measure of justice via investigation and prosecution, even with the passage of time.”