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Shankill Butcher linked to murder of two teenagers - The Irish News
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Shankill Butcher linked to murder of two teenagers

A leading member of the Shankill Butchers gang is suspected to have been involved in the cold-blooded murder of two teenagers almost 40 years ago, in a sectarian attack that no one has ever been convicted of.

The families of Thomas donaghy (16) and Margaret Mcerlean (18) were told this month that the findings of a cold-case investigation into the killings has been withheld after a damning inspection report into the Historical enquiries Team.

The families had asked the HeT for answers to 40 questions relating to the shooting at the abbey Meats factory in newtownabbey, on the outskirts of north Belfast, in February 1974.

The year before the attack the donaghy family had been targeted by loyalists who had driven them from Rathcoole estate after a campaign of sectarian harassment.

The family's next-door neighbour in Rathcoole was Shankill Butcher William Moore who also worked at the meat plant. They think he may have been with the murder gang and pointed out the carload of Catholic workers from the Bawnmore estate as they approached the meat plant.

UFF gunmen opened fire killing the two teenagers and injuring three others.

Moore died in May 2009.

While the families were told the HeT has answered all the questions raised, the findings have been withheld while HM inspectorate of Constabulary recommendations into the cold-case team's performance are considered.

Thomas donaghy's sister Marian said the latest delay had compounded both families' grief.

"While we never really expected to get justice we were hoping for answers about what happened to Thomas and Margaret. They were both just teenagers, children really, and we are convinced the shooting could have been prevented," she said.

"if those responsible had been arrested at the time, you have to ask how many more people would have been saved, and how many other murders could have been prevented."

Thomas died shortly after the shooting and Margaret Mcerlean, who was engaged to be married at the time, died in hospital a week later. Three other people were serious injured in the sectarian attack.

The RUC investigation was raised at the time by then MP gerry Fitt in the House of Commons who demanded an inquiry.

Staff at the meat plant had reported a suspicious car sitting close to the entrance of the factory for more than half an hour before the shooting took place.

However, police didn't arrive on the scene until the gunmen had already fled. The getaway car belonged to an RUC man who lived in Rathcoole but was reported stolen two weeks previously. in 2010 the family were contacted by the HeT to say the murders were being reviewed.

Jim donaghy, Thomas's brother, said this give new hope that they would finally get answers about their brother's killing. after receiving a draft copy of the HeT findings along with Relatives for Justice the families submitted 40 questions, including why a bullet found at the scene with a hair attached had not been sent for forensic examination.

Paul Butler of RFJ said: "There has been concern that the killing of Thomas donaghy and Margaret Mcerlean involved collusion.

"There were also concerns raised in an interim Community Relations Commission (CRC) report that the British army had admitted that they had taken a political decision not to intervene to protect Catholics in the newtownabbey area because of the risk of antagonising loyalists," he said.

"The donaghy and Mcerlean families had never been given a proper investigation by the RUC into the deaths of their loved ones. now the HeT have also let them down." a spokeswoman for the HeT said it dealt with families strictly on a confidential basis.

"it does not discuss the progress or content of a review with anyone except the family involved or their representative." she said.

n MURDERED: Marian and Jim Donaghy whose brother Thomas (16), inset left, was shot dead by the UFF in 1974 alongside Margaret McErlean (18) PICTURE: Hugh Russell

n BUTHCER: William Moore

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