Murdered man’s family must await outcome of inquiry for ‘amnesty’ answers, says NIO

Leslie Dallas
Leslie Dallas

The Northern Ireland Office has told a Co Tyrone family that they will have to wait for the outcome of the Prime Minister’s inquiry for answers about whether their son’s killers were given so-called ‘amnesty’ letters.

Leslie Dallas, Austin Nelson and Ernie Rankin were mown down by the IRA as they stood outside Dallas’ garage at Coagh, near Cookstown, on March 7, 1989.

A simple memorial ceremony was held at the scene of the murders yesterday to mark the 25th anniversary of the shootings.

Leslie’s brother Desmond told the News Letter last night: “We don’t need an anniversary to remember it, because we all think about it every day.”

In yesterday’s News Letter another member of the Dallas family recounted the murders and the aftermath.

“Leslie was just standing at his garage with two friends with his wife sitting in the car,” he said.

“Then three men pulled up in a car and two of the them got out and emptied the three of them. Then they all took off in the car, shouting and cheering, towards the Ballinderry Bridge.”

He is not aware of anyone ever having been arrested.

“They knew all the suspects. This gang was operating in the heart of mid-Ulster for years.

“The SAS shot three of them when they came back to Coagh to murder another Protestant in 1991.

“There is probably another half-dozen of the gang still out there. So far as we know they were all from about four miles away from us, from Moortown and Ardboe, with one from Coalisland.

“After 25 years we are still asking ‘where is the justice for us?’” He added “Our families have been crippled with the pain from that day.

“The on the runs row has brought us to our knees. We want to know if the British Government gave the rest of the gang letters to say they would not be arrested?”

A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Office responded, saying the Prime Minister had announced that a judge would be appointed to provide an independent review of the administrative on the runs (OTRs) scheme by the end of May.

“The review will produce a full public account of the operation and extent of the OTRs scheme; it is important now that we let this inquiry run its course,” she added.