Sean Graham slayings: Murder spree set in motion the deaths of two UDA figures years later

As the spotlight today turns on the police’s investigation into the Sean Graham massacre, the News Letter revisits the murders of some of the men believed to be responsible.

By Adam Kula
Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 8:08 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 11:18 pm
Plaque honouring members of the South Belfast UDA
Plaque honouring members of the South Belfast UDA

Raymond Elder and Joe Bratty were widely rumoured to have played a role in the 1992 massacre, but were never convicted in relation to it.

On July 31, 1994, the book Lost Lives says that the pair were shot by two men with AK47s who jumped out of a white van as the loyalists crossed the Ormeau Road at Rushfield Avenue (near the Vineyard off-licence today).

They had reportedly been on “a weekend drinking spree” following a wedding.

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RUC officers had chased the IRA team’s car across the Ormeau Bridge after the shooting and opened fire on the gang, but an angry crowd gathered and prevented the gunmen from being apprehended.

Elder was aged 32 and also known as Snowy, and Bratty was 33 with three children.

Elder had previously been charged in relation to the 1992 Sean Graham massacre but charges had been dropped.

Bratty meanwhile was said to have been in court on the day the bookie massacre occurred, but held the post of Ormeau district commander in the UDA, according to Lost Lives, and therefore was thought to have sanctioned the shootings.

On August 31, 1994, two months after the killing of Bratty and Elder, the IRA declared a ceasefire.

Ultimately two men were charged with Bratty and Edler’s murders, but were acquitted in 1996.

A Catholic youth worker who had tried to do cross-community activities with Bratty while the loyalist was still a teenager recalled that he and his friends had the letters ’KKK’ tattooed on themselves.

The youth worker was quoted in Lost Lives as saying: “Joe was tough and aggressive but also vulnerable and impressionable...

“He had great potential but it was wasted.

“There was nothing inherently evil about Joe Bratty. He wasn’t born a killer.”

Lost Lives also quotes Ulster Unionist MP Rev Martin Smyth as saying: “I’m aware there were attempts on these men’s lives over a period of seven or eight years.

“They were pursued with a deadly purpose without being brought to a public trial.

“The IRA seem to think they have the right to do whatever they want.”

Ultimately the UDA / UFF murdered 260 people according to Ulster University’s CAIN web archive – a number which is certainly a major underestimate.

That is because the UDA was engaged in intensive feuding from the turn of the millennium onwards as it gradually fell deeper into ill-discipline and factionalism – and CAIN’s records only go up to 2001, meaning these murders do not appear.

In addition CAIN attributes a whopping 256 killings to the category of “non-specific loyalist group”, many of which will have been unclaimed murders by UDA members.

The PIRA meanwhile killed at least 1,700: mainly civilians (491, but likely quite a bit higher due to the lack of claims of responsibility, especially in civilian murders), British Army or former personnel (459), police or former officers (284), and UDR or former UDR soldiers (221).

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