Northern Ireland

Family of Philomena Hanna 'stonewalled' in search for answers

Philomena Hanna was shot dead 50 years ago today
Philomena Hanna was shot dead 50 years ago today

THE sister of a west Belfast woman, who was shot dead by loyalists 30 years ago today, has said her family has been “stonewalled” in their search for answers.

Philomena Hanna (26) was murdered at the pharmacy where she worked on the Springfield Road in west Belfast in 1992.

The mother-of-two was working on a window display when a UFF gunman opened fire and as she lay on the ground he emptied a revolver into her head and body.

Notorious loyalist Stephen McKeague is believed to have fired the shots that claimed Ms Hanna’s life.

The hitman, who was known as ‘Top Gun’, is suspected of being involved in the murder of at least 12 people on behalf of the UDA’s notorious ‘C Company’.

He died of a drugs overdose in September 2000.

The callous sectarian killing, which the family believes involved collusion, sent shockwaves across west Belfast at the time.

The pharmacy where Ms Hanna worked was located opposite Lanark Way, which links the nationalist Springfield Road and loyalist Shankill districts.

She was known for crossing the peace line to deliver prescriptions to those in need.

In a statement the UFF later made the untrue claim that Ms Hanna was a sister of prominent Sinn Féin official Richard McAuley.

Despite the passage of three decades her family continues to seek answers.

Her sister Leontia McAuley last night said: “We have been stonewalled all the way.

“The government that should be helping aren’t – they are still stonewalling you.

“The way the system is now I don’t think I’m going to get any justice but I hope I do.”

Ms McAuley said “Philomena was innocent” and she has no doubt there was collusion in her older sister’s murder  – “but we can’t get any solid evidence”.

“I have spoken to the police via our solicitor but the questions have not been


Ms McAuley said her sister left a deep impression on those who knew and loved her.

“I don’t have to write a legacy. Philomena left it behind,” she said.

“She was a humanitarian, a generous person and a good person.”

Ms McAuley told how her father Kevin died eight months after his daughter’s murder on Christmas day aged just 50.

“My daddy died of a broken heart, he just cried and cried and cried for the whole eight months.”

She added that her mother Mary died four years ago and “never got any answers either”.

Pádraig Ó Muirigh, of Ó Muirigh Solicitors, said there “has been no proper police investigation or a satisfactory inquest” into Ms Hanna’s murder.

“The Hanna family have always believed that there was collusion between the security forces and the loyalist paramilitaries in her death,” he added.

Ms Hanna left behind two daughters, Deborah, aged 7, and 16-month old Kate.

The family recently received another devastating blow when Deborah’s 21-year-old daughter Caitlin died last month and was later buried beside her grandmother in the City Cemetery.

A special Mass for Ms Hanna and her granddaughter will be held tomorrow.

Detective Superintendent Stephen Wright said: “The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) completed a review into the murder of Philomena Hanna and no new investigative opportunities were identified as a result of that review.

“While the case does not form part of the current caseload of Legacy Investigation Branch, any new information about the murder should be brought to the attention of police and, where credible investigative lines of inquiry are identified, capable of leading to the identification and prosecution of suspects, we will follow them."

The NIO has been contacted for comment.