McKearney murders - RUC 'did not do enough to stop shootings'

butchers shop in Moy village Kevin and Jack McKearney were shot by a UVF gunman at their butchers shop in Moy village

A new report into the murders of two men shot by loyalist paramiltaries 20 years ago has concluded the RUC did not do enough to prevent their murders.

Kevin McKearney and his elderly uncle Jack McKearney were shot at their family shop in County Tyrone in 1992 by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

Their family has welcomed the report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

The HET found no evidence of security force collusion but also said it could not allay the family's suspicions.

The report has identified eight areas of concern about the security force operation, both in the lead up to and the aftermath of the murders.

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Kevin and Jack were not members of any paramilitary groups. They were both completely innocent victims."”

End Quote HET report
'Unexplained'

The McKearney family were well-known in Republican circles and felt they were particularly vulnerable to attack.

Days before the murders, Kevin's mother Maura had received a telephone call threatening that three men "in white coats" would be killed in Moy Square.

The family, several of whom wore white coats while working at the butchers shop they owned in the centre of the County Tyrone village, reported the call to police through a local councillor.

The HET report has concluded that the RUC "did not formally record or investigate the reported death threat".

It stated that the McKearney family were given no police advice about their personal security after they were threatened.

The inquiries team also said that the loss of forensic material during the RUC investigation, and the "fact that a special branch officer was aware of the getaway car three minutes after the murders" remained unexplained.

Kevin McKearney, a father of four, was working behind the counter of the butcher shop on 3 January 1992 when a gunman walked in a shot him several times.

Kevin McKearney Kevin McKearney's parents always insisted he had no paramilitary links

The 32 year old died at the scene.

His 68-year-old uncle John McKearney - known as Jack - was shot and seriously wounded in the attack.

He was taken to hospital but died from his injuries three months later on 4 April 1992.

'Tit-for-tat'

The murders took place two weeks after a Protestant man was shot dead by Republican paramilitaries at his family's shop in the same village.

Robin Farmer, the 19-year-old son of a policeman, was murdered on 21 December 1991 by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

The HET report stated Mr Farmer's murder had "raised fears among the Catholic community in Moy of a retaliatory attack because of the history of tit-for-tat sectarian murders in mid-Ulster throughout the Troubles".

Mrs McKearney received the death threat from anonymous caller just six days after the teenager was killed.

The butcher shop murders were not the first time the Troubles had affected the McKearney family.

Three of Kevin's brothers had joined the IRA.

In May 1974, his older brother Sean McKearney died when a bomb he was planting at a petrol station outside Dungannon exploded prematurely

In May 1987, his brother Patrick McKearney was one of eight IRA men killed by the SAS when they tried to attack Loughall police station in County Armagh.

Last year, a HET report into that incident concluded that the IRA opened fire first.

'Innocent victims'

A third brother, Tommy McKearney, was jailed for his involvement in the killing of a part-time UDR soldier in 1976.

Tommy McKearney spent 53 days on hunger strike in the Maze Prison, and now works as an author and freelance journalist.

At the time of Kevin's death, his parents insisted that he had no paramilitary links.

He had worked at the butchers shop since leaving school.

Among its conclusions, the HET report stated: "Kevin and Jack were not members of any paramilitary groups. They were both completely innocent victims."

The HET is a specialist police team set up in 2005 to re-examine 3,269 murders which took place during the Troubles.

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