Ex-RUC men to stand trial over murder investigation

TWO former RUC detectives are to stand trial accused of perverting the course of justice over an investigation into the killing of a soldier in Derry in the 1970s.

John McGahan (71) and Philip Noel Thomson (64) appeared in the dock of Belfast Crown Court yesterday for an arraignment hearing at which they both denied charges of perverting the course of justice.

The charges relate to an RUC investigation into the murder of Royal Welsh Fusiliers officer Lieutenant Steven Kirby, who was shot dead by IRA in February 1979 at Abercorn Road in Derry.

The RUC charged four teenagers with his murder: Gerry McGowan, Michael Toner, Stephen Crumlish and Gerard Kelly.

They became known as 'The Derry Four' after they skipped bail and crossed the border.

They always protested their innocence and almost 20 years later all charges against them were dropped.

Their treatment by the RUC was investigated by the Police Ombudsman and in 2012 the matter was referred to the Public Prosecution Service.

The retired detectives - whose addresses were given as PSNI headquarters, Knock Road, east Belfast - were released on continuing bail.

* ARRAIGNMENT: Former RUC detectives John McGahan, left, and Philip Noel Thompson leave Belfast Crown Court yesterday after pleading not guilty to perverting the course of justice PICTURE: Alan Lewis/Photopress