Pub attack survivors ‘could be dead before probe starts’

Surviving victims of a loyalist gun attack on a village pub 30 years ago might not still be alive by the time detectives get round to investigating alleged security force collusion with the killers, the High Court heard yesterday.

Lawyers for a barman who narrowly escaped being hit at the Thierafurth Inn in Kilcoo, Co Down claimed a failure to establish a fully independent probe into the shooting breaches his human rights.

One man, 42-year-old Peter McCormack, was murdered when a UVF gang burst in and opened fire during a darts tournament.

A number of other patrons were also injured in the November 1992 attack.

Campaigners for a Police Ombudsman investigation into a UVF gun attack on the Thierafurth Inn Pub in Kilcoo, Co Down in 1992 were at the High Court today. Included at South Down MP Chris Hazzard (second left) and solicitor Gavin Booth (third right).

John McEvoy, who developed post-traumatic stress disorder following the shooting, is seeking to judicially review the PSNI chief constable for an alleged failure to ensure an independent, effective investigation.

His challenge is based on information he says points to collusion between members of the security forces and the UVF operating in the south Down area at that time.

It followed the publication in 2016 of a police ombudsman report into the Loughinisland massacre.

In that attack loyalist gunmen murdered six Catholic men watching a World Cup football match in June 1994.

Even though the PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB) is to re-examine the circumstances surrounding the Thierafurth Inn shootings, counsel for Mr McEvoy claimed there will be an unlawful delay stretching into years.

The court heard the attack had been 542nd in a queue within the LIB’s case sequencing model, with no indication of when it will be considered due to limited resources.

Hugh Southey QC argued: “There would appear to be no reason to believe this investigation is going to start for a number of years.

“That’s a concern for the families. Mr McEvoy points out that two of the victims have died since the judicial review commenced, obviously raising a concern that they will not see justice.”

However, Tony McGleenan QC, for the chief constable, insisted there were no allegations about the involvement of state agents or imported arms being used in the pub shooting.

“What we have here is a very abstract suggestion of collusive behaviour by the applicant, but they don’t bear the hallmarks the court will be familiar with seeing in the context of other legacy cases,” he said.

Judgment was reserved.