Family of Lisburn man battered to death 30 years ago appeal for witnesses

Michael and Maureen Bradley, whose brother Paul was murdered by loyalists 30 years ago, have appealed for witnesses to come forward. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE family of a Catholic man savagely beaten to death in a bar full of customers 30 years ago have made a heartfelt appeal for witnesses who felt too frightened to speak to police at the time to come forward.

Council worker Paul Bradley died in hospital three days after being attacked in the Tavern Bar in Lisburn by a gang of loyalists armed with a chair, pool cues and broken pint glasses.

He was so badly beaten that his skull was shattered into nine pieces and he never regained consciousness.

The murder in December 1986 was one of a number of vicious sectarian attacks carried out by a UDA gang targeting the Catholic minority in Lisburn.

Around 170 Catholic families were intimidated from the town by loyalists during the 1980s, according to a police Historical Enquiries Team report.

Just an hour after the attack on Mr Bradley, three men - Colin Waring, Edward Bradley and Richard Marshall - were arrested by a local police officer in the nearby Coachman's Bar.

Blood was found on their clothing, there were bloody footprints on the stairs of the bar and blood in the sink of an upstairs toilet.

Waring had a deep cut on his hand and blood matching his blood group was found on the base of a broken glass used to stab Mr Bradley.

The three were charged with murder and remanded in custody but released six months later when prosecutors withdrew the charges, saying there was no reasonable prospect of securing a conviction.

The family were told by the RUC that all the witnesses present in the bar were too frightened to give evidence.

The officer in charge of the case said at the time that police had met with a "wall of silence".

Michael and Maureen Bradley, through their solicitor Kevin Winters, had asked the Public Prosecution Service to review the case, but the PPS referred it back to the PSNI legacy branch.

Maureen Bradley said the family were devastated by their brother's murder.

"We thought once they were charged that was it, but when the case collapsed we were left in limbo," she said.

"The way Paul was murdered stays with you - that anyone could do that to a person and get away with it, it's just hard to live with."

Michael Bradley said Lisburn was a "frightening place for Catholics" at the time and the family understood the reluctance of witnesses.

"We always thought there was enough forensic evidence for a trial but were told that without witnesses it couldn't go to court," he said.

"I know people were afraid and I can understand that, but 30 years have passed - maybe their circumstances are different or maybe they'd feel safer now.

"I can't imagine you could ever forget what happened. I'm sure those people still remember that day as well as we do and we would hope that they would now feel able to come forward."

Mr Winters said the family would now pursue a civil action.

He claimed there was a "systemic failure" to properly investigate sectarian attacks in the greater Lisburn area at the time.

"We have engaged with the PPS and the Attorney General's office in an effort to address the terrible injustice," he said.

"In the meantime the Bradley family confirm that they are to take civil proceedings against the police over the failed investigation."

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