The restart date for an inquest into the murder of two Catholic men linked by MI5 to notorious loyalist killer and suspected state agent Robin ‘The Jackal’ Jackson has been put back.
Kevin McKearney (32) and his uncle Jack McKearney (70), died after a gun attack at a family-run butchers shop in Moy in January 1992.
Kevin died instantly, while his uncle Jack died later in hospital.
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 but have both been delayed due to the failure of state agencies, including the PSNI, to hand over vital material.
Under the British government’s Legacy Act, which was passed last year, all inquests that have not reached their findings stage by May 1 will be halted.
The inquest into the McKearney murders, which opened last year, was due to recommence on February 19, followed by the Fox inquest.
As lately as this week lawyers acting for the McKearney family raised concerns about the disclosure delays.
Coroner Richard Greene confirmed on Friday that the inquest will not now go ahead as planned.
“As things stand the information that is outstanding, the work that is outstanding is of such importance and complexity that the opportunity for my team and the parties to be properly prepared and ready for the 19th is at such a stage where I can see no reason to keep that date and I think the families are entitled to know that,” he said.
A date for the restart has yet to be set.
Barrister Jude Bunting KC, acting for the McKearney family, said his clients will be upset by the development.
“The news that the inquest is to be delayed will come as great distress to the families,” he said.
“They have been pushing for active case management in this inquest for many years and it seems to us that urgent directions are required.”
Speaking outside court solicitor Gavin Booth, of Phoenix Law, said that while “disappointing, it’s unsurprising given the lack of proper engagement and disclosure from state bodies in this inquest and all inquests”.
“It’s time the state properly resourced these inquests.”
A closed hearing, at which legal representatives of the dead are not allowed to attend, to consider Public Interest Immunity (PII) was held earlier this week.
PII certificates are used by state agencies to conceal information they don’t want placed in the public domain.
During an open hearing, also held this week, it emerged that loyalist killer Jackson, who is believed to have been a state agent, was named in Security Service (MI5) material as a suspected gunman in the McKearney murders.
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.
A former UDR member, Jackson was a leading figure in the UVF’s Mid Ulster unit from the 1970s right through to the 1990s.
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.
A spokeswoman for the PSNI said: “We are supporting the Coroner’s Service during this inquest and we will continue to do so.
“As this is the subject of ongoing inquest proceedings, it would be inappropriate for the police service to comment further at this time.”