Man learns of loyalist death plot by reading Loughinisland report

Peter McCarthy, Mary Sloan and solicitor Gavin Booth outside the Thierafurth Inn where Mary's brother Peter McCormack was murdered in 1992. Picture by Matt Bohill
Peter McCarthy, Mary Sloan and solicitor Gavin Booth outside the Thierafurth Inn where Mary's brother Peter McCormack was murdered in 1992. Picture by Matt Bohill

A CO Down man has told how he only learned of a loyalist plot to kill him on reading the Police Ombudsman report into the Loughinisland massacre.

The same UVF gang responsible for the 1994 atrocity intended to shoot Kilcoo man Peter McCarthy 19 months earlier, but abandoned the plan.

Mr McCarthy, whose family own the Thierafurth Inn in the village, was a cousin of Peter McCormack who was shot dead in the pub a fortnight later.

He said only became aware of the previous murder bid when the ombudsman’s report was published last month.

Mr McCarthy believes there were at least four attempts on his life around that time and the RUC and security services allowed the UVF murder squad to operate freely.

“They were a sectarian, bigoted force backed up by the British establishment,” he said.

Mr McCormack (42) was shot dead in November 1992 after UVF gunmen burst into the Thierafurth Inn and opened fire.

Several other people were injured during the indiscriminate attack.

The ombudsman's report into the Loughinisland killings revealed that an RUC officer who investigated the murder later claimed the pub was frequented by “bad people”.

Referred to as 'Officer Four', he was the deputy senior investigating officer and later became the senior investigating officer for the Loughinisland massacre.

He queried to ombudsman investigators why Mr McCormack, who was brought up in Kilcoo, had been at the local pub on the night of the attack.

In his report Dr Michael Maguire said “this commentary by a senior police officer charged with the investigation is considered to be poor practice and suggests a lack of objectivity”.

Mr McCormack’s sister Mary Sloan last night said she would like to see the killers held accountable.

She added: “That police officer (Officer Four) is the man I would like to speak to, to find out what made him so biased.”

Mrs Sloan said she can’t understand the motives of those who killed her brother.

“I wonder what happened to make them so bitter in the first place, that they could go out and kill a complete stranger and take satisfaction from it."

One of those suspected of the attack was a man known as Person A.

A member of the UDR, he was arrested by police investigating the Loughinisland murders in August 1994 after an arms find near Saintfield in Co Down.

On the night of the Thierfurth attack he and another UVF man known as Person K were also stopped at a security force checkpoint in Ballynahinch and allowed to continue their journey.

Dr Maguire revealed that by mid-1993 the RUC received intelligence that Person A was one of two gunmen at the Thierfurth Inn while Person K was the getaway driver and prior to the attack those involved had attended a meeting in east Belfast.

The intelligence also said the date of the attack was chosen because it was ‘darts night’ in the pub.

The intelligence was marked ‘No Downward Dissemination/Slow Waltz’, meaning it was only seen by senior officers.

Gavin Booth, solicitor for the Sloan family and Peter McCarthy, said “there are a number of unanswered questions in relation to the Thierafurth Inn".

“The families deserve truth and we will be calling for that process.”