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British army admit UDA killer was former member of UDR

Former British soldier and nationalist politician John Turnly was shot dead by the UDA in 1980
Connla Young

THE Ministry of Defence has admitted that a UDA man convicted of killing of two men 35 years ago was a former member of the UDR.

William McClelland was part of a three-man UDA gang with alleged links to the SAS who were convicted of the murder of the Rodney McCormick (22) and former SDLP member John Turnly (44) in 1980.

Brothers Robert and Eric McConnell were also convicted for their part in the murders.

During his 1982 trial Robert McConnell claimed he had been working for the SAS saying they supplied him with weapons, uniforms and listening devices.

Mr McCormick was shot dead in August 1980 outside his home in Larne, Co Antrim.

He had been threatened by loyalists in connection with an armed robbery for which he served a prison sentence.

While in jail he is believed to have been aligned to the INLA.

From a Protestant unionist background, Mr Turnly was a former British army officer and member of the SDLP before helping to found the Irish Independence Party.

Elected to Larne council, he was shot as he arrived for a meeting in Carnlough, Co Antrim, in July 1980.

He was also active in the National H-Block Committee.

Other members of the committee killed around this time included IRSP members Noel Lyttle, Ronnie Bunting and Miriam Daly.

Former Mid-Ulster MP Bernadette McAliskey was also seriously injured in a loyalist gun attack.

Some republicans believe the SAS was directly involved in the murder of Lyttle and Bunting, who were also INLA members.

Despite the murders taking place 35 years ago Mr McCormick’s family were only told recently that one of the men convicted of his murder was a former British soldier.

“At no stage following the arrest, prosecution or conviction of these three individuals was the family told that one of the suspects had been a member of the UDR from mid-1975 until late 1978,” he said.

“This was withheld from us, along with the Turnly family, the press and the public.

“Was the judge even aware?

He added that it was a “matter of grave concern to be told that one of the killers was a member of the UDR until shortly before the murders”.

Mr McCormick said his father’s killers were arrested an hour after they murdered his father but were later released.

Paul O’Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre said that when he wrote to the PSNI last year he was told “there is no information held by Legacy Investigation Branch to indicate that Mr McClelland was a member of the Armed forces, UDR or the Prison Service”.

In letter sent last month the MoD confirmed McClelland served with the UDR.

Mr O’Connor asked: “Was the Prosecution Service aware of this and if so why was it withheld from the court?

“Why was the PSNI unaware of this?

“We would ask the PPS to carry out a review of the papers in this case to resolve these issues.”

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