Northern Ireland news

Widow of Michael Stone victim wins legal challenge over refusal to hold inquest into her husband's death

The widow of one of Michael Stone's victims has won High Court permission to challenge a refusal to hold an inquest into her husband's death. Picture by Mal McCann

THE widow of one of loyalist killer Michael Stone's victims has won High Court permission to challenge a refusal to hold an inquest into her husband's death.

Thomas McErlean was among three mourners murdered by Stone in his infamous attack on an IRA funeral at Milltown Cemetery, west Belfast in March 1988.

His wife, Anne Marie, wants an inquest to examine her suspicions of security force collusion.

In court yesterday Mrs McErlean was granted leave to seek a judicial review of the coroner's decision not to set up a tribunal.

Stone (64) is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence for waging a sectarian murder campaign.

Three of his victims were killed when he launched a grenade strike on the funeral of IRA members shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar.

Thomas McErlean (20) John Murray (26) and Kevin Brady (30) all died in the cemetery attack.

Stone was also the gunman in another three separate killings.

Loyalist gunman Michael Stone opens fire on mourners at Milltown cemetery in west Belfast in 1988. Picture by Pacemaker

Released early in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, Stone was returned to jail six years later after trying to enter Parliament Buildings at Stormont, armed with explosives, knives and an axe.

Earlier this year the High Court ruled that he must remain behind bars until 2024.

Mrs McErlean's solicitors, McIvor Farrell, issued proceedings after her request for an inquest was turned down last year.

The decision was based on a criminal trial having already been held, along with a pending Police Ombudsman investigation into a complaint from the McErlean family potentially offering a better remedy.

Due to financial pressures Mr Justice McCloskey noted it may not get underway until 2021.

He held that 51-year-old Mrs McErlean has established an arguable case for a judicial review.

Speaking outside court McErlean said she was "delighted with the outcome".

"There are a number of issues that need to be investigated," she said.

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