Man sentenced to 20 years jail for RUC man's murder may serve less than two

A MAN sentenced to at least 20 years for the murder of a policeman as he visited his wife and new baby in hospital in 1981 could serve less than two years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Last month Belfast Recorder, Judge David McFarland convicted 54-year-old Seamus Kearney of the murder of RUC reservist John Proctor.

Kearney, of Gorteade Road, Swatragh, Co Derry, had denied the murder of the 25-year-old reservist and possessing the Armalite AR15 assault rifle used to shoot him dead at the Mid Ulster Hospital on September 14, 1981.

However, years later his DNA was found on a cigarette butt recovered from the murder scene, for which he had no answer.

This is the second time that Kearney was jailed for a paramilitary gun attack.

In December 1984 Kearney was given 20 years, of which he served 10, for the attempted murder of UDR soldiers whose Land Rover came under fire from the same AR15 rifle used to kill the police man, as it drove through Swatragh in the direction of Maghera in November 1982.

Yesterday Judge McFarland said he did "not take into account the release scheme under the Belfast Agreement".

Quoting from two senior law lords, he added that the courts still had to determine the appropriate sentence regardless of any remission or parole it may attract.

Kearney was sentenced to at least 20 years for the 1981 murder but could serve less than two years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Judge McFarland said the shooting of Constable Proctor, even with "the passage of 30 years has in no way diminished the brutality of this murder".

However, Kearney heard little of the Belfast Crown Court judge's condemnation of him.

When brought into the dock, Kearney dismissed an offer of ear phones, telling the judge: "I don't want to hear anything... you continue on".

Regardless, Judge McFarland told him that the policeman had been an easy target for Kearney and others who "were waiting for him" after visiting his wife June and new-born son John.

"I do not know," the judge said, "if you were the gunman, were driving the 'getaway' car, or were there to provide support".

However, he added that in all of the circumstances the shooting "has to be one of the most appalling murders committed during that period of our history known as the Troubles.

"The passage of 30 years has in no way diminished the brutality of this murder," he said.

"That a man can be targeted when his is attending a hospital to visit his wife and newly-born son, continues to appal all right-minded members of society.

"He was murdered in a most brutal fashion and given no chance to defend himself or escape."

The judge added that the police-man's son "bears his father's name, no doubt with pride but it is a constant reminder for him, and the rest of the family, of the cruel nature of his father's death".

* CONVICTED: Seamus Kearney was last month found guilty of the murder of John Proctor

* VICTIM: RUC reservist John Proctor was shot dead on September 14 1981


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