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Families prepare to mark 40th anniversary of murders

Connla Young
04 January, 2016 01:00

The brother of three Catholic men shot dead by a notorious loyalist gang 40 years ago has said he hopes arrests will be made in the case soon.

Eugene Reavey was speaking on the 40th anniversary of the callous attack that claimed the lives of his three brothers.

John Martin Reavey (24) and his brother Brian (22) were killed when a UVF gang burst into their Whitecross home in south Armagh and opened fire as they watched TV on January 4, 1976.

A third brother, Anthony (17), was injured after he tried to hide under a bed and died several weeks later.

The murders were carried out by the notorious Glenanne gang, which included members of the UVF, RUC and UDR.

Within minutes of the shooting three members of the O'Dowd family were also gunned down by the same loyalist gang near Gilford in Co Down.

Barry O’Dowd (24) and his brother Declan (16) died along with their uncle Joe (16) after armed and masked men burst into their home during a family reunion.

The next day 10 Protestant men were shot dead near Kingsmill, south Armagh, as they travelled home from work.

The attack was later claimed by a group calling itself the South Armagh Republican Action Force, which claimed it was in reprisal for the Reavey and O’Dowd murders.

Mr Reavey last night said he has been told that his brothers’ case will be examined by the Police Ombudsman shortly and hopes arrests will be made.

He said the deaths of his brothers had "devastated" his family for the past 40 years.

"They have enough evidence in our case to go and make arrests," he said.

In the past Mr Reavey has been critical of the British government over its failure to hand over documents relating to the case.

He has also accused them and other political parties of "protecting their own deep secrets" during the Troubles.

Mr Reavey said his family and others who lost loved ones continue to be let down.

"I have lost all faith in politicians to sort this out," he said.

"I think it will be ten years before we have agreement (on the past)."

Mr Reavey said he will no longer personally pursue his brothers’ case after the expected Police Ombudsman investigation is completed.

"There is no will to sort it out, the political system has failed," he said.

"It’s up to the chief constable to open those files and hand them over.

"The talk about security issues 40 years ago have no relevance today."

In 2010 a Historical Enquiries Team report into the Reavey attack exonerated the brothers and family members from any links to paramilitary groups.

Mr Reavey said that on the night before they were killed his brothers played pool with brothers Walter and Reginald Chapman, who were both shot dead at Kingsmill.

"They were all innocent victims, every one of them," Mr Reavey said.

Declan and Barry O'Dowd's brother Noel said he has "no doubt" there was security force collusion in the murder of his relatives.

Senior UVF commander Robin "the Jackal" Jackson, who is now dead, was widely suspected as one of those involved in the shooting though never charged.

"I don't hold out much hope anyone will ever be brought to justice," said Mr O'Dowd.

"But I would just like to know some answers.

"I would like to know who planned it, where did it come from, who pin-pointed us?

"Why was our family targeted?

"Nobody could have got to us without local involvement.

"I would just like to know answers - how high did this go?"

04 January, 2016 01:00 News

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