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Donegal murder victim's family to sue MOD

The late Henry Cunningham.

THE family of a Protestant teenager murdered in a UVF ambush in 1973 is to sue the Ministry of Defence after it emerged the gun used in the attack was stolen from an army base in Co Armagh.

Henry Cunningham (16), from Carndonagh in Co Donegal, was a front seat passenger in a van bringing Protestant and Catholic workmen home from a building site in Belfast on the evening of August 9 1973.

As the van travelled along the M2, three UVF gunmen opened fire on the vehicle from a bridge. The teenager was killed instantly while another workman was shot in the face.

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) subsequently found that one of the guns used in the attack was earlier stolen from a UDR base in Lurgan. The same gun was used the following year to kill two Catholic workmen in Glengormley. Terence McCafferty (37) and James McCloskey (29) were shot dead by the UFF in a workmen’s hut in January 1974.

At a press conference at Derry’s Pat Finucane Centre yesterday the family’s lawyer, Shane Moorhead, said it appeared the gun was stolen in October 1972.

“It is our contention that either the MoD were negligent in enabling people to steal weapons from armouries or there were those working for the MoD who assisted in the theft of the weapons.”

He revealed that a writ against the MoD was lodged with the High Court in April. However, Mr Moorhead said the case could take a long time before reaching its conclusion.

The Belfast-based lawyer said the Cunningham family was particularly concerned that Public Interest Immunity certificates or Closed Measure Procedures (CMP) could be used by the Ministry to withhold full disclosure in the case.

Henry’s brother Robert, who was travelling with him on the night of the murder, said the family was taking the High Court action purely to get justice for the murdered teenager.

The victim’s other brother, Herbie, who was driving the van at the time, said the six men in the vehicle were all from different religious backgrounds.

“The three of us were Presbyterian and there were two Catholics and one Protestant,” he said.

Mr Cunningham said: “Henry just slumped over. He just shouted to me ‘I’m hit’... he just slumped over.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said: "The MoD will continue to cooperate fully with all judicial processes."

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