Northern Ireland news

Son believes father was killed 50 years ago by British Army 'counter gang'

Mary Heenan and her husband Patrick. Picture Mal McCann.
Connla Young

THE son of a man killed by loyalists 50 years ago believes he was the victim of a 'counter gang' set up by the British army.

Patrick Heenan (50) was killed after he lay on top of a grenade thrown into his work van as he made his way to work in east Belfast on February 1 1973.

The murder as carried out by the UDA unit known as the Baker/McCreery Gang.

Former British soldier Albert 'Ginger' Baker received a life sentence for killing Mr Heenan and three other men and later claimed to have links to British military intelligence.

The first loyalist supergrass, Baker was a member of the infamous UDA 'G4 unit' which carried out a series of brutal 'romper room' murders in Belfast in the early 1970s.

The gang is thought to have been responsible for killing of as many as 22 people, including up to eight in 'romper-room' murders.

It was led by UDA founding member Ned McCreery who was gunned down by his own organisation in 1992.

In 2015 Mr Heenan's widow Mary, who is now aged 96, launched legal action against the Ministry of Defence and former senior officer General Frank Kitson, alleging her husband died because of negligence and misfeasance in office.

General Kitson is believed to have been responsible for British army policy that resulted in the infiltration of loyalist gangs in 1970s.

Understood to be aged in his nineties, General Kitson was Commander-in-Chief UK Land Forces from 1982 to 1985.

The previous decade he in charge of British military operations in the north.

The former British soldier helped develop the use of 'counter-gangs', subversion, psychological operations and the creation of covert units such as the controversial Military Reaction Force (MRF).

Mary Heenan, whose husband husband Patrick was killed by the UDA 50 years ago today. Picture Mal McCann.


It has now emerged that after legal papers were served almost eight years ago General Kitson responded in a handwritten note to campaign group Relatives for Justice.

The letter, which was signed by General Kitson, acknowledged receipt of the documents.

Mr Heenan' son Eugene said his family is in no doubt his father was killed by a 'counter gang'.

He spoke of the British army's strategy the late 1960s.

"Baker was sent to train with the special forces in America and with the SAS, sent back here, and he was operating," he said.

"And the whole reason was every time the IRA did something they would have killed a Catholic to try and turn the nationalist people against the IRA."

Mr Heenan said his family was unhappy with two reports produced by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team (HET) into his father's murder.

He revealed he had previously asked HET officials if Baker would meet with him.

At a subsequent meeting HET officials said the request was turned down because "Mr Baker is living a new life with a new family who know nothing of his past".

"He was obviously paid off and living in England somewhere," he added.

Mr Heenan's family will hold a special Mass tomorrow at St Agnes' Church in west Belfast at 7pm.

Mass will be celebrated by Fr Tony Devlin, whose own father worked with Mr Heenan.

The Ministry of Defencesaid: "It would be inappropriate to comment as legal proceedings are ongoing".


Mary Heenan and her husband Patrick. Picture Mal McCann.


Northern Ireland news