Northern Ireland

Notorious UVF commander Robin ‘The Jackal’ Jackson named as suspect in Co Tyrone double murder

MI5 document reveals loyalist a suspect in Kevin and Jack McKearney murders

UVF killer Robin 'The Jackal' Jackson
UVF killer Robin Jackson

Notorious UVF killer Robin ‘The Jackal’ Jackson was identified by MI5 as a suspect in the double murder of two Catholic men in Co Tyrone more than 30 years ago, a coroner heard on Thursday.

Robin ‘The Jackal’ Jackson is believed to have been involved in dozens of sectarian murders over more than 20 years.

Details of his suspected involvement in the murder of Kevin McKearney (32) and Jack McKearney (70), during a gun attack at a family-run butcher shop in Moy in January 1992, emerged during an inquest review hearing into their deaths.

Kevin died instantly, while his uncle Jack died later in hospital.

It is the first time Jackson’s name has been officially linked to the sectarian gun attack.

Kevin McKearney
Murder victim Kevin McKearney

Eight months later, in September 1992, Charlie Fox (63) and his wife Tess (53), who were Kevin McKearney’s in-laws, were gunned down in their home, near Moy, also by a UVF gang.

The McKearney and Fox inquests have been linked.

Jackson, who died 1998, was a key figure in the notorious Glenanne Gang, which included members of the RUC, UDR and UVF, and is believed to have been responsible for killing up to 120 people.

The activities of the murder gang are currently subject of a review by the Operation Kenova team, which was formerly headed by current PSNI chief constable Jon Boutcher.

Former UDR member Jackson was a leading figure in the UVF’s Mid Ulster unit from the 1970s right through to the 1990s.

His first victim is believed to have been Patrick Campbell, who was shot dead at his home in Banbridge, Co Down, in October 1973.

In 2022 his widow Margaret, who died before Christmas, was awarded a “significant” undisclosed pay-out as part of a civil claim against the PSNI over alleged security force collusion.

Jude Bunting KC, acting for the McKearney family, raised several concerns about the progress of the delayed inquest, including those around disclosure.

Both inquests have been held up for years due to delays by state agencies in producing sensitive material.

Referring to skeleton arguments, he said there has been “non-disclosure or apparent non-disclosure on the part of the state bodies”.

“And we are very concerned about this, and we are very concerned at the extent of disclosure that has appeared,” he added.

“Your honour, in the Security Service (MI5) material there is reference at page 8 to a suspected gunman….his name is Robin Jackson.”

Mr Bunting later told coroner Richard Greene that after her husband’s murder Ms Campbell had picked Jackson out of an identity parade.

He added that in the 20 years between the Campbell and McKearney murders “we know, because it is in the public domain, that it is widely suspected that Robin Jackson led a killing campaign on behalf of the UVF, which has become popularly known as the Glenanne Gang”.

Mr Bunting said very little information about Jackson has been handed over.

“Now, despite this fact we have 20 years of killings, 20 years of allegations about being a state informant, all of which predate the killings of these inquests,” he said.

“Despite that fact there is one reference to Robin Jackson in all of the sensitive material that we have received from the MoD, the PSNI and the Security Service (MI5).

“And the suspicion that I come to is that it doesn’t appear to us that either the PSNI or MoD have been asked to provide material or whether in fact they have just chosen not to provide that material.”

LVF leader Billy Wright who was shot dead by the INLA inside the Maze Prison in December 1997
Billy Wright

Mr Bunting said other alleged state agents linked to the case include for UVF commander Billy Wright.

He also raised concerns about the scope and said that lawyers for the relatives of the dead “have found it very difficult to decipher the sensitive material because it is full of redactions”, which he said “make them effectively impossible to follow”.

He said that although revised documents have been sent by the PSNI, the problems remain.

“These documents have been over-redacted to a level of absurdity, which make them effectively indecipherable to those who don’t know what they relate to,” he said.

Solicitor Gavin Booth, of Phoenix Law, said: “These families, like all others, deserve the truth and justice.”