Northern Ireland

Loyalist Alan Oliver linked to Fox killings

Concerns raised about state agent involvement in Charlie and Tess Fox murders

Alan Oliver
Alan Oliver Alan Oliver

A suspected state agent believed to have played a part in multiple sectarian murders has been linked to a double killing of a Catholic couple in Co Tyrone more than 30 years ago.

Mid Ulster loyalist Alan Oliver was named during an inquest hearing into the murder of Charlie Fox (63) and his wife Tess (53) on Friday.

The couple were gunned down in their home, near Moy in Co Tyrone, in September 1992.

Eight months earlier their son-in-law Kevin McKearney (32), who was married to the Fox’s daughter Bernie McKearney, and his uncle Jack McKearney (70), died after a gun attack at a family-run butchers shop in Moy.

Kevin died instantly, while Jack died later in hospital.

Collusion is suspected in both cases.

The Fox and McKearney inquests are linked but have been held up due to delays by state agencies, including the PSNI, in handing over key documents linked to the case.

Loyalists Laurence Maguire and Vicky Ahtty have been granted Properly Interested Persons (PIP) status at the linked inquests.

Both Maguire and Ahtty were among five men charged and convicted of offences in connection with the Fox murders.

Ahtty was also convicted of conspiracy to murder in relation to the McKearney case.

An open inquest hearing was heard in front of coroner Richard Greene on Friday, ahead of closed session to consider Public Interest Immunity (PII) applications by security agencies.

PII certificates are sought when state bodies don’t want sensitive state information to be seen by the public.

During the open hearing Des Fahy KC, referred to notes taken after Maguire’s arrest in 1993, which stated “a total of six persons were involved in the murder”.

He said that Maguire had provided a further account of the circumstances of the murders adding that the loyalist said at interview “Oliver thought he had cut himself on the window when leaving the Fox’s.

“It is clear to the next of Kin that the person being referred to here is Alan Oliver.”

Mr Fahy posed a series of questions to the coroner including if there was “information in any redacted materials that indicate he was a state agent or informer”.

Oliver has been linked to several sectarian killings including a gun attack on a mobile shop in the Drumbeg estate in Craigavon in 1991, which claimed the lives of Eileen Duffy (19), Katrina Rennie (16) and Brian Frizzell (29).

In 2001 a court issued an order holding Oliver and two other men liable for the unlawful killings.

Now a born-again Christian, Oliver has previously been involved with Portadown Elim Church as a deacon.

In recorded testimonies posted online he has claimed to having been “heavily involved in organised crime and political violence”.

Mr Fahy said that Maguire also claimed that “that a source within security forces provided the Lisburn/Mid Ulster UVF with targeting information”.

Charlie and Tess Fox Charlie and Tess Fox

Jude Bunting KC, acting for Bernie McKearney, later referred to the suspected involvement of UDR members in the Fox killing.

“It has been clear since the HET (Historical Enquiries Team) report that three part-time UDR men were arrested in connection with Mid Ulster killings in 1991,” he told the coroner.

“The HET links this to the Fox case.

“The HET tells us that by the time of the Fox killings the UDR had been amalgamated into the Royal Irish Rangers (sic) and that on the weekend of the killings two units from the RIR were on duty covering an area which included the Moy.”

Mr Bunting said that while Ministry of Defence “sensitive disclosure entirely ignores this issue” PSNI material “does touch upon it in the briefest terms”.

“It refers to widespread speculation of UDR men’s involvement in these killings and arrests being linked to the case,” he said.

“It then goes on to tell us….that in 2001 an unnamed soldier came forward who provided further intelligence, again linking the same UDR members who’d been arrested, to these murders.”

Mr Bunting added the information “shows us that serving members of the military may have been involved in these killings”.

During Friday’s hearing Mr Bunting referenced two suspected state agents, including Billy Wright and another man, “widely linked to these killings and then not a shred of evidence in the sensitive files to explain whether or not they were in fact state agents”.

At an inquest hearing last month it emerged that former UVF commander Robin ‘The Jackal’ Jackson was identified by MI5 as a suspect in the McKearney murders.

Mr Bunting added that the “involvement of state agents doesn’t stop with Billy Wright” and the other man.

Referring to Security Service (MI5) sensitive material there is a “suggestion that Robin Jackson organised these killings”.

“Robin Jackson is repeatedly linked to the Fox killings in the PSNI sensitive material,” he added.

The barrister said a “pen picture” of Jackson gave an “overview of who the man was and what the man had done”.

That document touches on the murder of Pat Cambell in Banbridge, Co Down, in October 1973, the barrister said.

Jackson was later arrested and was picked out in an ID parade by Margaret Campbell, Mr Campbell’s widow.

Mr Bunting said that it is known from documents that he was “later cleared following SB intervention” - believed to be reference to Special Branch.

“Yet there is no reference to that document in the pen picture, which simply states that he was cleared on the direction of the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions),” he said.

“The reality is that document is effectively, overwhelmingly, redacted for PII reasons.

“Is that because he was a state agent?”

In 2022 Ms Campbell, who died last year, was awarded a “significant” undisclosed payout as part of a civil claim against the PSNI over alleged security force collusion.

Mr Bunting said a series of redactions linked to suspects in the case “show it is more than arguable that state agents were directly involved in these murders and that is a, if not the key issue from a scope perspective”.

“Any inquest that failed to investigate that issue will, in our respectful submission no fulfil its statutory obligations.”

Siblings Bernie McKearney and Paddy Fox (Centre) pictured with their legal representatives Gavin Booth and Peter Corrrigan.
Bernie McKearney's husband Kevin and his uncle John McKearney were shot at their family butcher shop in Moy, County Tyrone, in January 1992.
Nine months later Mrs McKearney's parents Charles and Teresa Fox were killed in their home in Moy.
FOX Inquest Bernie McKearney and Paddy Fox (Centre) pictured with their legal Gavin Booth and Peter Corrigan, of Phoenix Law. PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

Speaking outside court solicitor for Bernie McKearney, Peter Corrigan of Phoenix Law, said the “allegations of collusion that have come to light in this inquest call for a proper process”.

“It’s clear the Legacy Act will not deliver that for families and the state has protected these killers for too long.”