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Glenanne Gang collusion labelled ‘a war crime’

The brother of three Whitecross men who were murdered by the notorious Glenanne gang in 1976 says Friday’s High Court ruling that police chiefs had failed to conduct a thorough investigation into collusion between the British state and the loyalist Glenanne Gang has “vindicated” the families of the victims.  Speaking outside the High Court in Belfast after Justice Seamus Treacy delivered his judgement, Eugene Reavey described the collusion as a “war crime.” He said the families of victims had been “humiliated and abused by everybody in every part of the journey but today we have been vindicated.”

“The judge repeated collusion, collusion, collusion all day,” added Mr Reavey.

“There is no other word for it than a war crime – that’s how big it is.

Mr Reavey’s brothers John Martin (24), Brian (22) and Anthony (17) were gunned down by the UVF gang in a sectarian attack on their rural home in Whitecross on 4th January 1976.   He and other families of the Glenanne gang’s victims took legal action against the PSNI for failing to complete an overarching review of the activities of the gang.

The judicial review was conducted at the request of Edward Barnard, whose 13-year-old brother Patrick, was killed in the bombing of the Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon in County Tyrone in 1976. Mr Barnard, who joined emotional relatives of the gang’s victims outside the Belfast court, said he had not expected the outcome.

“I am shocked – I did not think we would get the victory today that we have got,” he said.

“We have proved collusion, we have proved that the police halted the report, they stopped the HET from fulfilling their part.”

Justice Treacy ruled that police chiefs unlawfully frustrated any chance of an effective inquiry into suspected state collusion with the Glenanne Gang, whose members included serving officers of the RUC and the UDR.  The gang is believed to have been responsible for up to 120 murders in nearly 90 incidents in the Troubles, including the Miami Showband massacre in 1975 and the Step Inn pub bombing in Keady a year later.

The senior judge said victims’ families were denied in their legitimate expectation that the now-defunct Historical Enquiries Team (HET) would publish an overarching report on the UVF gang’s killing spree throughout the 1970s.

A draft HET report into alleged collusion between security forces and the killers was said to have been 80 per cent finalised before being shelved by former Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

Relatives have now called for a “fully resourced and robust” independent inquiry into the collusion claims and for the PSNI to complete the unfinished HET report and publish its findings.

Lawyers have been given until the start of September to try to agree on the appropriate form of relief in the case.