John Proctor murder: Life sentence for Seamus Kearney
- 28 November 2013
- From the section Northern Ireland
A man has been given a life sentence for the murder of a 25-year-old police reservist in a hospital car park in Northern Ireland in September 1981.
John Proctor was murdered by the IRA at a County Londonderry hospital after visiting his newborn son.
Seamus Martin Kearney, 57, of Gorteade Road, Maghera, had denied murder and possessing an Armalite AR15 rifle.
No tariff has been set on the life sentence but under the Good Friday Agreement he may serve two years.
Speaking outside the court, the family of the murdered policeman said they had waited over three decades for justice to be served.
His widow, June McMullin, said the murder had ripped their family apart.
She said that she heard the gunshots that killed her husband from the hospital where she had just given birth to their second son.
"He was struck down and taken from us, from his family. He had a newborn son and another son at home. The life was taken out of all of us as a family," Mrs McMullin said.
"I heard the gunshots and I knew it was him. I knew Johnnie was dead because I heard the number of shots they put in him. It wasn't just one shot - they riddled him. I knew Johnnie's life was over.
"As a family, we stayed together. As a family we were strong. We've been strong this last 32 years and we have waited patiently and now our day has come. I'm relieved that we have finally got justice," she added.
The policeman's son, who was born just before his father was murdered, said the family believed justice had been served.
Also called Johnnie, he said: "I'm happy the family can now have some closure, some justice, and can finally move on with our lives.
"It was 32 years past in September. I never got to meet my father. It's so sad that I never got to meet the man that brought me into the world."
Mr Proctor was a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the forerunner of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
During the trial, key evidence centred on a DNA sample found on a cigarette butt recovered from the scene at Magherafelt hospital at the time.
A review of the murder by the Historical Enquiries Team established that current techniques could extract a DNA profile from the cigarette end.
The sample was later matched to Kearney's DNA profile.
The judge said: "I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the presence of DNA had come from the saliva of the defendant when he was smoking the cigarette".
The judge said it was abundantly clear that a number of individuals had murderous intent that evening.
Witnesses had described seeing a white Ford Escort car in the hospital car park with at least two men including one man with a rifle.
The car was found later that night on the Tobermore to Draperstown Road.
The judge said: "They came armed to kill, and they executed their plan.
"The gunman was there to fire the weapon, the driver of the car was there to remove the gunman and the weapon from the scene, and any other occupant of the car would have been there to provide support for either the gunman, the driver, or both.
"All the occupants of the car are guilty of murder."
In December 1984, Kearney was jailed for the attempted murder of UDR soldiers, whose Land Rover came under fire, from the same AR15 rifle used to kill Constable Proctor, as it drove through Swatragh in the direction of Maghera in November 1982.
In a statement read out on behalf of the family, the policeman's niece, Lorna Torrence, said: "The family would like to take this opportunity to thank the HET and Serious Crime Team Branch and all who were involved for giving us a chance to seek justice where a great injustice was posed to our family.
"The life of John Proctor - although cut short by unjustly acts of a cowardly nature - will be remembered for his kindness, warmth and love for his family and his service in the RUC to maintain peace ,law and order to which he lost his life.
"After all these years of heartache and pain, he will never be forgotten.
"The ripple effect of pain, suffering and anger that has stretched across our family has changed the lives of young and old forever.
But the process to seek justice, although difficult, has helped to bring truth - the facts and a level of understanding of what took place," Ms Torrence said.