Miami Showband: Papers on soldiers linked to shooting 'have been destroyed'
MILITARY chiefs defending a legal action over alleged collusion with loyalist paramilitaries behind the Miami Showband massacre have claimed any documents on soldiers involved have been destroyed, a lawyer said today.
The solicitor representing survivors and relatives of murdered group members said he has been told material on vetting and training Ulster Defence Regiment recruits linked to the atrocity would have been scrapped more than a decade ago - if it ever existed.
Michael Flanigan also confirmed both the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and PSNI are seeking to stop the disclosure of some intelligence files on public interest immunity grounds.
Victims of the attack are suing both the MoD and PSNI over alleged collaboration between serving soldiers and the paramilitary killers.
Three members of the popular band were taken from their tour bus and shot dead on a country road after a gig in Banbridge, County Down in July 1975.
They were travelling home to Dublin when a fake army patrol made up of UDR soldiers and UVF members stopped them at a bogus checkpoint outside Newry.
Band members were made to line up at the side of the road while attempts were made to hide a bomb on the bus.
The device exploded prematurely, killing some of the would-be bombers.
Their accomplices then opened fire on the band, murdering lead singer Fran O'Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpeter Brian McCoy.
Two other band members, Des McAlea and Stephen Travers, were also injured but survived the atrocity.
In 2011 a report by the Historical Enquiries Team raised collusion concerns around the involvement of an RUC Special Branch agent.
It found that notorious UVF boss Robin 'The Jackal' Jackson, a one-time UDR member who died in 1998, had been linked to one of the murder weapons by fingerprints.
Jackson, a suspected RUC Special Branch agent linked to scores of murders, claimed in police interviews he had been tipped off by a senior police officer to lie low after the killings.
He went on trial charged with possession of a silencer attached to a pistol used in the murders but was subsequently acquitted.
Two serving members of the UDR were, however, eventually convicted for their part in the attack.
Another member of the regiment was killed at the scene, according to lawyers for the victims.
Writs have been issued against both the MoD and Chief Constable, seeking damages for assault, trespass, conspiracy to injure, negligence and misfeasance in public office.
Military chiefs allegedly knew about but failed to stop loyalists infiltrating the UDR's ranks, according to the victims' case.
They also claim police are liable for vetting carried out on applications to join the army regiment and the use of agents such as Jackson.
Following a hearing at the High Court in Belfast, Mr Flanigan confirmed the defendants have filed affidavits on the issue of disclosing documents.
He said: The MoD affidavit indicates that a large number of documents relating to the vetting and training of UDR members involved in the Miami attack were destroyed in 2005.
"No explanation has yet been given as to how or why this destruction took place."
The solicitor added that police and the military are claiming public interest immunity for documents relating to Jackson and any infiltration of the UDR.
It will now be for a British Government minister to decide whether to issue the certificates sought to protect the material.