Northern Ireland news

Police failed to send suspected UVF killer's file to prosecutors

Brendan Duffy holds a photo of his teenage sister Eileen who was one of three Catholics shot dead in a mobile shop in Craigavon in 1991. Picture by Mal McCann.
Connla Young

The RUC failed to send an investigation file to prosecutors about a suspected loyalist hitman identified as a triple sectarian killer.

Portadown man Alan Oliver has previously been linked to a UVF gang that carried out dozens of sectarian murders in the Mid Ulster area.

Loyalist James Thomas Harper fingered Oliver as the triggerman when three people were shot dead in a notorious UVF attack on a mobile shop in the Drumbeg estate in Craigavon in 1991.

The three victims included Eileen Duffy (19), Katrina Rennie (16) and Brian Frizzell (29).

Harper was later convicted for his part in the triple murder and given a life sentence.

He drove the killer to the scene and later burnt the getaway vehicle.

Brian Frizzell

During police interrogation he identified Oliver as the killer and another loyalist Anthony ‘Tony’ McNeill as also being involved.

He also claimed that former UVF commander Billy Wright and Mark ‘Swinger' Fulton, another member of the organisation, were both involved in planning the attack.

The target was said to be the shop’s owner, who it was claimed had refused to serve members of a UDR patrol in the area.

During Harper’s sentencing Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Hutton said it was “unfortunate” that only he was before the courts.

Now the Public Prosecution Service has confirmed by letter to solicitors that "no investigation file in respect of Oliver or McNeill was ever submitted to the DPP (Department of Public Prosecutions) for a decision as to prosecution regarding this incident”.

Solicitor Kevin Winters

A PPS official added "that it would not be appropriate for the PPS to now apply the test for prosecution to individuals not reported on the original police file".

Oliver is now a born-again Christian and has previously been involved with Portadown Elim Church.

He has made recorded testimonies posted online in which he admits having been "heavily involved in organised crime and political violence”.

He could not be contacted for comment.

During interrogation Harper claimed that after the attack Oliver used a radio to say "Tatie bread" to indicate to other gang members someone had been killed.

Eileen Duffy’s brother Brendan spoke of his family’s disappointment last night.

“I’m very angry that there was never any chance of a conviction,” he said.

“It confirms what we believed that the state had some role in the killings at the mobile shop.”

“The truth is more important to us than justice because if there are any convictions they will only get two years.”

The family’s solicitor Kevin Winters last night said “the Craigavon mobile shop killings presents as one of the worst examples of cover up of state - run murdering agents”.

“We have written to the police seeking an explanation - we don't expect to get one,” he said.

“The bereaved Frizzell, Rennie and Duffy families continue to engage with patience and dignity in a drip-feed legal process that takes a terribly long time to finish.”

“Getting shocking news like this only serves to retraumatise them and that's an experience shared by 100s of other families.”

How the Irish News reported the conviction of James Thomas Harper in March 1995

Mr Winters said that if similar circumstances arose in another jurisdiction there would be an investigation.

“But not here, It will never happen because of so called ‘political sensitivities’ and other ‘agendas’.

“That is both farcical and depressing."

A spokeswoman for the PSNI said: “The further review into this case now sits within the case load of Legacy Investigation Branch for consideration.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further on this matter subject to the completion of the review.”

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