Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Miami Showband documents destroyed, claim military chiefs

A solicitor representing survivors and relatives of murdered members of the Miami Showband in a legal action over alleged collusion with loyalist paramilitaries behind the massacre has told the High Court that military chiefs claim documents on soldiers involved have been destroyed. 

Lawyer, Michael Flanigan, said he has been advised by military bosses that material on vetting and training Ulster Defence Regiment recruits linked to the atrocity would have been disposed of more than a decade ago – if it ever existed in the first place.

Mr Flanigan also confirmed that both the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and PSNI are seeking to stop the disclosure of some intelligence files on the grounds of public interest immunity.

Victims of the attack are suing the Ministry of Defence and PSNI over alleged collaboration between serving soldiers and loyalist paramilitary killers. 

The popular band were travelling home to Dublin after a gig in Banbridge in July 1975 when a fake army patrol made up of UDR soldiers and UVF members stopped them at a bogus checkpoint just outside Newry.  The loyalist gang attempted to hide a bomb inside the bus while the band members were lined up along the roadside, however the device exploded prematurely, killing some of the would-be bombers.  

The other gunmen then opened fire on the group, killing lead singer Fran O’Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpeter Brian McCoy and injuring two other band members, Des McAlea and Stephen Travers, who both survived the atrocity.

A report compiled by the police Historical Enquiries Team in 2011 raised collusion concerns about the involvement of an RUC Special Branch agent and found that UVF chief Jackson’s fingerprints had been linked to to one of the murder weapons used in the atrocity.

He claimed during police interviews that he had been tipped off by a senior RUC officer to “lie low”after the killings and went on trial charged with possession of a silencer attached to a pistol used in the murders, but was acquitted.

Two serving members of the UDR were eventually convicted for their part in the massacre.

Another member of the regiment was killed at the scene, according to lawyers for the victims. 

The victims’ case claims that military bosses knew about loyalists infiltrating the UDR’s ranks but failed to stop it and that police were liable for vetting carried out on applications to join the army regiment and the use of agents such as Jackson.

Writs have been issued against both the MoD and Chief Constable, seeking damages for assault, trespass, conspiracy to injure, negligence and misfeasance in public office.

Following a hearing at the High Court in Belfast, Mr Flanigan confirmed the defendants have filed affidavits on the issue of disclosing documents, revealing that the MoD affidavit indicated that a large number of documents relating to the vetting and training of UDR members involved in the Miami attack were destroyed in 2005.

“No explanation has yet been given as to how or why this destruction took place,” said Mr Flanigan.

It will now be up to a British Government minister to decide whether to issue the certificates sought to protect the material.