Loughgall Truth & Justice Campaign

                                                                    May 8th 1987

                                           

                                                  Loughgall – a search for the Truth

                                

                                      Issued by the Loughgall Truth & Justice Campaign

 

  Introduction:

On the eight of May 1987 eight IRA men and one civilian were murdered by the SAS in Loughgall Co. Armagh.  Another civilian was seriously wounded. The killings were carried out admittedly by the SAS, the British Army’s military elite Special Air Services in joint operation with the Royal Ulster Constabulary [RUC].

Loughgall is a small rural village it is the birthplace of the Orange order and an RUC barracks is located there.  It was a limited part-time opening barracks.  In a planned attack on the barracks eight members of the Irish Republican Army [IRA] and one civilian were killed by the SAS.  The circumstances of these killings have never been examined in a court of Law or by an independent investigative body.

This was a carefully well-planned ambush by the SAS and RUC.  They have stated in written documents that they had at least 24 hours prior notice of the IRA’s intentions to bomb the unmanned barracks.  Intelligence reports show that the British army and the RUC knew of the IRA’s plan to attack the Loughgall RUC barracks, as well as the IRA personnel involved, several weeks in advance, yet no attempt was made whatsoever to arrest or detain these individuals or to prevent the attack from taking place.  The Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Provisions Act give the RUC and army enormous power and discretion to stop, question and search anyone suspected of planning an offence.  The British armed forces, sanctioned at the highest level, however, chose not to utilise these extreme investigative authorisations, but instead carried out a shoot-to-kill ambush clearly calculated to murder these known individuals, evidencing a callous indifference for due process and human life in clear contravention of Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The following outlines the events leading up to the killings at Loughgall, the actual incident and events following it.  The clear message throughout is that there was a pre-determined plan to kill all members of the IRA unit regardless of the risk to civilian life.   The SAS/RUC operation was not designed to prevent an attack but was instead an operation planned and executed to kill all the IRA personnel involved including the civilian Mr Anthony Hughes.

                  The Plan:

On the 7th May at approximately 8.30pm 24 SAS soldiers and members of the RUC special task force were briefed at Mahon Road Barracks in Portadown about an impending attack on Loughgall RUC barracks in Co. Armagh.  The SAS soldiers had been flown in prior to this meeting from their base in Hereford in England. 

Soldier A was in overall command of the SAS soldiers.  He briefed his soldiers and the RUC constables about the attack that was to take place the following day May 8th at Loughgall. The soldiers were assigned their positions and weaponry.  Constables A and B were assigned to accompany Constable C in the normal running of the RUC barracks.  They were also to be accompanied inside the barracks by 6 SAS soldiers dressed in civilian clothing, Soldiers A, B, C, D, E, and F.

The other 18 SAS soldiers were all to dress in combat uniform and were assigned the following positions: G, H, I, were positioned in a wooded area to the south of the Loughgall Road.  Soldier I was assigned to carry caltrops with him.  Soldiers K, L, M, and N were to position themselves in the wooded area on the Armagh side of the Playing field and opposite the cottages.  Soldiers O, P, Q, and R were assigned to a wooded area to the South of the Loughgall Road, at the Armagh side of the playing fields opposite the cottages.  They were a few yards to the right of Soldiers K, L, M, and N.  Soldiers S, T, and U were to position themselves to the South of the Loughgall Road in a wood to the west of St Luke’s Church.  Soldier U was assigned to carry Caltrops with him.  The final group was soldiers V, W, and X and they were positioned in a wooded area to the north and approximately 250 metres to the rear of the RUC barracks. [Ref.: Appendix 1]

From 1.00am to 2.30am May 8th Constables A, B and C arrived at the Loughgall barracks.  At approximately 2.00am the SAS soldiers were brought to Loughgall and took up their various positions in and around the barracks.  There are no reports detailing the weaponry that Constables A, B, and C carried.  Soldiers carried general-purpose machine guns, pistols, Heckler and Koch rifles, personal radios and two soldiers carried caltrops.

                The 8th of  May:

Loughgall RUC barracks was a part-time limited opening station.  It opened from 9.00am to 11.00am and again 5.00pm to 7.00pm.  During the course of May 8th Constables A, B, and C carried out the normal running of the barracks. 

At approximately 2.30pm two armed and hooded men approached Mr Peter Corr at a Snooker Club on Mountjoy Road, Dungannon.  They asked for the Blue Hiace Van registration number GJI 4417, which was parked outside.  Mr Corr was the driver of this van, which belonged to his employer Mr Colm McGrath.  Mr Corr was instructed by the two men not to report the van missing for 4 hours.  After the men left Mr Corr phoned his employer Mr McGrath and informed him what had happened.  Mr Mc Grath did not telephone the RUC until 6.50pm.

At some stage during the afternoon Soldiers C, D, and E state that they were made aware of the blue Hiace Van and its registration number and that it would possibly be used in the attack on the barracks. 

At around 6.00pm three men entered the home of Mrs Josephine Mackle at Aghinlig Upper Dungannon.  They told her they were taking the digger [JCB].  The digger was taken from the yard at approximately 6.45pm.  Various witnesses reported various sightings of the digger some stating they had seen it as early as 6.20pm along with the blue van.

Anthony Hughes and his brother Oliver received a phone call on the morning of the 8th May to repair a lorry belonging to Mr John Guy at Loughgall.  They arrived at Mr Guy’s house at approximately 4.00pm.  They were travelling in Anthony’s car a white Citroen car registration number OIA 3248.  Having looked at the Lorry they had to travel to Donnelly’s garage just off the main Armagh-Moy Road.  They then returned back to Loughgall to John Guy’s house to repair the Lorry.    On their return home they decided to travel through Loughgall, as it was a “straighter road”.  Anthony was driving the car.  Oliver was wearing overalls.

A number of IRA men had planned an attack on the Loughgall RUC barracks.  Loughgall RUC barracks is situated in a small rural village and as is customary in small towns operated on a part-time limited opening basis.  The attack on the station was planned to take place after 7.00pm.  The actual attack took place at 7.25pm outside opening hours..  Normally, according to locals, the station would have been vacated at this time on a Friday evening. With this in mind the assumption can be made that the IRA men were intent on bombing the barracks rather than killing officers inside. 

The IRA had hijacked the Blue Hiace Van and the JCB digger to carry out this attack.  A 300-400lb bomb was placed on the bucket of the digger.  It would appear that the intention was to drive the loaded digger into the perimeter fence surrounding the barracks and ignite the bomb and the use the van as a getaway vehicle.  It is evident from depositions read at the inquest in June 1995 that the van and digger were observed passing by the RUC barracks at least three times prior to the attack.  One witness at the inquest had stated that it was travelling so slowly that a policeman could have stood out in front of it.  Apart from these sightings the movements of the van and digger are unclear.  At 7.25pm the van and digger returned to the front of the barracks slowed down and stopped opposite it facing in the direction of Armagh.  The driver of the van and the driver of the digger are reported as having pulled up beside each other and had a short conversation before the digger was driven into the perimeter fence of the barracks.  A short time later the bomb exploded.

There is no evidence at all that any measures were taken to arrest the IRA men prior to or during the course of the attack.  There is also no evidence to suggest that arrest procedures were even discussed at the briefing the SAS and RUC had on the 7th May.  The IRA men had clearly been under surveillance for at least the day of the 8th May.  The owner of the van did not report it hijacked until 6.50pm that evening.  Yet a number of soldiers have stated in their depositions that they were informed by radio of the van its make, colour and registration number as early as a few hours before the attack.  If this is the case why was no action taken to stop the van.  Were the IRA men under surveillance when they collected their weaponry and placed it in the van and if so why were they not arrested prior to doing so or during the course of such action.  It is evident from reading the depositions of the soldiers that each location was on alert for the van and digger and would have been aware of the nature of the attack on sight of the digger with the explosives in its bucket.  Civilian witnesses recall the bucket raised high with barrels and wires sitting in it.  In spite of these facts there is no evidence to suggest that in the time of the first sighting of the van and digger and of the explosion, no action at all was taken by the soldiers.  Soldier I and U had caltrops with them.  Each was positioned at opposite ends of the Loughgall Road.  The caltrops could have been deployed after the vehicles had passed by one location and in turn the both vehicles would have been unable to leave the area.  Yet there is no evidence that this measure was even considered by the soldiers.

Soldier S clearly states in his deposition that the JCB had stopped for a few moments opposite his position yet he made no attempt to apprehend anyone or even challenge them nor indeed is there any suggestion that this was even contemplated.

“…I heard the JCB coming along the road and stop opposite my location”. 

 Given all this information and the information of the security forces at various stages before the attack the fact that the area around the barracks was not sealed off suggests strongly that the security forces permitted the attack to take place.

  The Attack:

Inside the RUC barracks:

Constables A, B and C inside the RUC barracks accompanied soldiers A, B, C, D, E and F.  Soldiers A, B, C, and E were on the first floor of the station.  Soldier D was on the ground floor at the front and soldier F was at the rear of the station in the radio room. Constables A, B, and C were on the ground floor of the station.  Soldiers A, B, C and E were in prime positions overlooking the front of the barracks and could see up and down the Loughgall Road.  They report seeing the van and digger past back and forth past the barracks on at least 2 occasions prior to stopping opposite the barracks.

“At approximately 1815 hours I was informed from the ground floor that a blue Hiace van had been hijacked…. I saw the blue Hiace van pass by on the Loughgall Road…. As a result of radio communications I was aware that other positions had sighted this van passing on other occasions”. [Soldier A]

“During the early evening, a radio communication was passed to me informing me of a hijacked blue Toyota Hiace van…I saw the blue Toyota Hiace van GJI 4417 pass from my left to my right.  A few minutes later it came back from my right to my left.  A few minutes later it came back from my left…[Soldier B]

“A few hours prior to the incident I was made aware by radio that a blue Hiace Van had been hijacked and may be used..”[Soldier C]   

 There are inconsistencies in each soldier’s reports of what happened once the van stopped.

Soldier A who was in overall command of the operation states that he saw 2 men emerge from the rear of the van and walk onto the roadway raise their rifles and begin to fire at the front of the station.  He says on seeing this he returned fire and then came under sustained fire from the direction of the van.  Then he reports the loud explosion.  After which he made his way out of the barracks.

“As I looked out.. I saw two persons dressed in blue overalls and balaclava type hoods, each armed with a rifle, emerge from the rear of the van and walk casually but what appeared confidently into the roadway and slightly up the driver’s side of the van.  Each of them raised their rifle into firing position at the shoulder and pointing at the police station.  …My colleague Soldier B and I responded immediately by returning fire at the two gunmen…. There was a loud explosion…. We moved out to the front of the station towards the van…”

Soldier B states that the gunfire started to come from the general direction of the front of the station before the van stopped.  He further states that men got out from the side door at the passenger side of the van and that one man came around to the front and two others many more came around from the back.  He states that they all started to fire at the barracks from each end of the van.  Then he saw them all go behind the van and he then fired at the side of the van assuming the IRA men had gone inside it.  He said he then saw the JCB digger and directed a long burst of fire at the cab.  At this stage the bomb exploded.

“…It (the van) came back from my left and stopped just past the Police station.  It started to reverse and before it stopped almost opposite me, gunfire started to come from its general direction.  I’m certain that men got out of the van and that they came out from the side door behind the front passenger door.  One man came round the front of the van and two, perhaps more, came from round the back…. They all started to fire at the Police station from each end of the van…I saw the men going behind the van and as I thought they were taking cover, I aimed at the van and fired a prolonged automatic burst of about 20 rounds in an attempt to penetrate the van.  My aim was slightly to the rear as I thought I saw their feet…..I saw a JCB…I fired quite a long burst of fire at the cab of the JCB…the digger stopped and I changed back to firing at the van…”   

Soldier C states he saw the front seat passenger get out of the van and walk around the front of the van, stand in the centre of the road a few feet from the front of the van facing the barracks.  Others then got out of the rear.  Then the IRA men started to fire at the barracks.  Soldier C states he took aim and fired 2 short bursts at the man at the front of the van and saw him fall to the ground.  He said this man tried to get up again so he fired another sort burst and he fell back on the ground.

As the van stopped, I saw the driver pull a mask over his face and at the same time the front seat passenger, who was wearing dark overalls, got out of the van and walked around the front of the van and stood in the centre of the road a few feet from the front of the van and looked up at the police station.  I then saw this man pull, what appeared to be a mask, over his face. At the same time I was aware of other persons getting out of the rear of the blue van…I immediately took aim with my rifle at the gunman at the front of the blue van.  I fired two short bursts and I saw him fall to the ground, still holding his rifle.  I then fired a short burst in the direction of the driver of the van.  At that stage I saw the first gunman I had shot, attempt to get up and bring the rifle to bear on my position.  I fired one short burst from my rifle at him and he fell back onto the road ”

Soldier E states that he saw the driver of the van open the door to get out and saw he had something in his hand.   Soldier E fired at him.  He then says he saw the back of the van open upwards and at least 4 men get out and fire at his position.  Two of these got back into the van.  At that stage the bomb exploded.

“..I saw the driver open the door of the van to get out and I saw that he had something in his hand.  I immediately fired a number of single shots at him…. I saw the door at the back of the van open upwards and at least four gunmen get out and commence to fire at our position with rifles… I saw two gunmen get into the back of the van and I immediately fired at them through the side of the van. The next thing I remember is a big explosion…”

Soldier D who was on the ground floor of the station says he saw the front passenger get out and go around the front of the van and open fire.  He fired at him and the driver of the van.  He says the man at the front fell.

I saw the front seat passenger in the van come around the front of the van and I saw that he was carrying a rifle…. This man pointed the rifle at the police station and opened fire.  I immediately took aim at this gunman and fired a number of aimed shots and I then fired a number of short bursts in the direction of the driver of the van.”

All 8 occupants left the station.  On leaving the station Soldier A saw a man diving into the back of the van.  He therefore fired into the side of the van where he thought he might be.  He saw another man on the far side of the Loughgall road in a crouching position or lying on the pavement so he fired at him.  He shouted a warning to one of his colleagues about 80m away from this man and then fired shots at the person. 

“On believing that the van area was safe, I looked towards Loughgall and observed a person crouching or lying on the pavement…. I then saw one of my colleagues..about 80 metres away.  I immediately decided that his life was in danger from the gunman I have already described and I shouted a warning to my colleague and immediately fired shots at this person.”

Soldier B also shot this man on the Loughgall Road opposite the station 50 yards to the east.  He fired single aimed shots at him until he fell to the ground.  He also fired at the man to the side of the van who was lying on the ground.

Soldier A shouted some kind of warning…I fired single aimed shots at this man.  He fell to the ground…  The reason I fired at this person was because he was facing us and made an aggressive movement in our direction.  I thought he was going to fire at us both and endanger our lives as we were both exposed to him…..”

 Despite the fact that Soldier A states in his deposition that “It was not practical under all the conditions to give a verbal warning” he was able to shout a warning to one of his colleagues regarding the man on the Loughgall Road.  This man was Gerard O’Callaghan who was unarmed and no-where near the vicinity of weapons.  Soldier A also has stated that this man was lying on the pavement before he shouted the warning yet Soldier B says after hearing Soldier A’s warning he shot at this man because he was moving towards them in an aggressive manner.

Soldier A shouted for the firing to stop and it did.  Soldier B approached the van to clear it of any further danger.  On looking into the van he said one of the men lying in the back made a sudden movement and he fired a “warning shot” into him. He also fired a shot into a man lying to the rear of the van and his feet to the front.

…I saw a man at the rear on the nearside.  He appeared to be in a prone position with his head to the rear of the van and his feet to the front.  I saw him moving and because of this…I considered that he was a threat to my life and that of Soldier A and other soldiers in the vicinity.  I fired at him….I then approached the van with the intention to clear it of any further danger to my life and my colleagues lives….I looked into the back of the van I noticed two men and a number of weapons.  One of these men made a sudden movement…so I fired one round into him.”

It is obvious that the soldiers in the station have varying accounts of how the men exited the van and what they did when they exited it.  In reference to the man lying at the front of the van [Patrick Kelly] both soldier A and B give differing accounts of what he was doing before they opened fire and different reasons to justify their decision to open fire. 

Soldier B is the only soldier to state that gunfire started before the van stopped.  Where or from whom this gunfire came is unclear.  It would be apparent that it must have come from the Soldiers in one of the five positions outside the station as the IRA men were travelling in the van and the driver of the digger was unarmed.

Soldier E states that he saw the driver of the van open the door to get out and that he saw something in his hand and that is why he fired at him.  Yet no other soldier states that the driver opened the door to get out.  The Forensic Scientific reports state that the two front doors of the van were closed.

Soldiers G; H, J and I left their position in the wooded area to the south of the Loughgall Road when the gunfire started.  They headed down the road towards the station firing on those in and around the van.  Soldier G says

When the gun man I was firing at fell to the ground, I switched my fire to the front of the van in an attempt to neutralise further enemy gunmen”.

Soldier I states that he attempted to put “caltrops” down but decided to discard them on seeing what was taking place.

“I moved from my cover position and attempted to put out my caltrops on the Loughgall Road…..I noticed an armed terrorist…the terrorist was firing towards the Police station.. I then discarded my calrops..I went into the kneeling position and fired aimed shots at the gunman at the front of the van who was firing at the police station ..Soldier G was to my immediate left and Soldier J was to his left.  When they had joined me and started firing the terrorist at the front of the van was standing and firing…..I then saw a terrorist armed with a rifle dressed in a boilersuit and no hood attempting to leave the van from the right side of it as I looked at it.  As soon as I seen him he fell to the ground…..then the explosion occurred.”

At no stage prior to the deployment of this particular unit onto the Loughgall Road after the shooting started did the soldiers contemplate using the caltrops.  At no stage on observing the van and digger passing their position on at least 3 occasions were the caltrops employed.  He also reports seeing a man with a boiler suit and no hood on attempt to leave the van from the passengers side but the fall to the ground.  There are no forensic reports to account for this man as all those who fell in and around the van were all hooded except the driver who died in the front seat.

Soldier J in his statement says that after the bomb exploded he aimed his fire at the IRA man to the front of the van just in front of the driver’s door.  He also states that after this man fell he aimed his fire at the two men on the right of the van between the fence and the side of the van.  He fired at them until they fell.

There was an explosion from the direction of the Police station and then a 2 second lull and then the firing started again.  I brought my weapon into aim at a hooded man wearing blue overalls armed with a rifle who was at the front of van just in front of the driver’s door.  As I was taking aim on him he crumpled and fell. I switched my aim to the area between the Hiace van and the fence to my right at two men in blue overalls with rifles…I opened five aimed shots at these men and at the front of the Hiace van.  The men crumpled and I stopped firing. ”

There are obvious discrepancies in Soldier J and Soldier I statements.  Soldier I clearly states that before the explosion he saw an armed man attempting to leave the van from the right side fall to the ground. He also states that he saw one of the 2 IRA men to the right side of the van fall to the ground before the explosion.  This directly contradicts Soldier J account who refers to firing at these 2 men after the explosion until they fell.

Soldier J is also inaccurate when his statement is compared to Forensic Reports, other soldiers’ statements and scene photographs.  He stated that he fired at the man at the front of the van on the driver’s side of the door.  However this made is reported to have fallen before the explosion.  James Smyth Wallace, the Forensic Scientist states that there was a “stone” on top of the rifle lying across the man’s chest: this he states evidenced that he had been killed before the explosion took place. 

There was a rifle lying on top of the body with a piece of ‘stone’ on top of the rifle.  The stone was probably debris from the explosion at the RUC Station suggesting that this person was lying on the ground before the explosion.”

Soldiers S, T, and U were positioned at the south of the Loughgall Road in a wood to the west of St Luke’s Church.  Soldier S states that he received a message saying that the van and JCB digger were moving towards the RUC station so himself and soldier U and T moved towards the road.  He states he saw a white car, which he thought, was part of the attack.  He states that this white car started to reverse towards his position at high speed going from side to side.  He opened fire on this car from behind, as he believed it was a threat to his life and there was no other way to prevent the car and its occupants escaping.  Soldier S says he saw the passenger try to get out of the car but then he was hit on the head by gunfire and fell.  Then he states the bomb exploded.  Soldier S then proceeded to go down the road towards the Station and then returned back up towards the white car.  When he arrived back at the car an uniformed RUC sergeant was there.  The passenger of the car was still alive.

“We all ran towards the road…I believed we were under fire as I could hear bullets whistling and cracking past us…. When the police station and the van came into view I also saw a white car…. I thought it was right there with the van.  When I reached the wall I could see the white vehicle start to reverse away from the situation..It started to reverse, then it seemed to slow…I thought it was going to stop but then it started to reverse towards my position at high speed going from side to side…I then opened fire on the vehicle while it was still moving.  As I was firing the car continued to zigzag…My reasons for opening fire at this white vehicle were that I believed it contained armed terrorists who were involved in the attack on the RUC Station, that the attack which was still continuing was endangering the lives of the people I knew to be in the RUC station, that the occupants of the white vehicle still posed a threat to the lives of myself and the other members of my group, and that because the caltrops could not be deployed there was no other way to prevent the  car and it occupants escaping….While changing my magazines I saw the front seat passenger start to get out of the white car.  The door opened and I saw him move to get out…I then saw him being hit on the head by gunfire.  I saw a wound open up in his head. He dropped to the ground into the gutter.  He was still moving….I considered this man no longer a threat, even though I could still see movement in his body….We then moved down the Loughgall Road towards the police station…..My group then headed east again on the Loughgall Road and arrived back at the white vehicle.  An uniformed RUC sergeant was there.  The passenger was still alive…Soldier U and I lifted him onto the pavement and rendered first aid….  We left him with the uniformed RUC sergeant..”

   Soldier T states that when he saw the white car he believed it was part of the attack.

In my view it was there within the incident and in my eyes it was part of what was going on and was taking fire.  We were also taking fire.  I believed that there was armed terrorists in the white car who were a danger to myself and to other members on the ground.”.

 He said that he opened fire at the car when it began to zigzag.  He only stopped firing when his magazine was empty but reloaded and then fired at the blue van.

It moved back slowly in my direction and then full pelt, zigzagging as it was coming back.  Because I believed that there were armed terrorists in that car and because we didn’t have time to lay caltrops on the road because of the intense fire on the road and because of the threat of the car towards me and my group, I opened fire at the car.”

Soldier U reports that when the firing commenced it was intense.  He said he could see tracer coming towards him and shots going over and between himself and soldier S and T.

I could see tracer coming towards us, strikes on the wall itself and the crack of rounds going over and between us.  I decided because of the weight of the fire it was too dangerous to deploy the caltrops at this stage and I just dropped the bag.”

  He states that when the passenger of the white car went to get out he says he saw that he was wearing blue overalls but couldn’t see his right hand so he fired 3 shots at him.  He says he could see that he was still alive and moaning.  Soldier T then moved down the road towards the RUC station as he says he was anxious to check and treat the people in the station.

“….I saw the front passenger door opening…The passenger door opened fully as he began to get out I could see he was wearing blue overalls.  He was getting out in a crouched manner and I couldn’t see his right hand.  The moment I saw the coveralls it struck me they were the same uniform that the other terrorists attacking the police station were wearing.  As I believed that he was an immediate threat to my life and to the lives of Soldiers S, and T, I fired three single rounds at him….I could see that that he had been hit and I could also see that he was still alive because he was moving and groaning.  I considered no further a threat….The next thing I saw was an explosion…I called the police down as I saw them east of me towards the village, two of them came down.  I told them about the driver being dead and about the state of the passenger.  I was anxious to get to the police station because I had field dressings with me and I told the police I was going down…….We got back to the area of the car where the policemen were.  They hadn’t been able to help the injured guy so Soldier S and myself moved him and laid him on the pavement…I asked the police to call the ambulance down and get him away.”

The accounts of Soldiers S, T and U contradict the written statement of Mr Oliver Hughes the surviving civilian and his oral statement at the inquest into the deaths.  Oliver Hughes at the inquest stated they his brother had not reversed in the manner suggested by the Soldiers.  He is also quite clear that the explosion occurred before they stopped and that was the reason for them stopping.

Just as we came over the top of the hill at the church we heard a loud bang.  I was aware that it was an explosion and saw smoke around the Police barracks.  Anthony stopped the car and was about to drive back when there was a heavy burst of gunfire from behind us.” 

 The scene photos and maps support his statement. [Ref.: Appendix 2]  It is evident from these that the white car was parked on the left-hand side of the narrow road on a hill and in a uniform distance from the kerb.  It could not have been so parked if it had been reversed in a reckless and erratic manner as suggested by the soldiers who opened fire on it.

There are also questions over Soldiers S, T, and U’s accounts of being under fire.  Soldier U states that he saw a tracer coming towards him yet there are no reports of the IRA men having tracers.  It can only be concluded then that the firing came from the soldiers positioned in and around the station.  Forensic reports state that all if not most of the IRA shots were directed at the front of the RUC station.

Some if not all of the shots were directed at the RUC station as evidenced by the damage to the perimeter fence and the bullet strike marks on the front of the Station”.

Another disturbing aspect of Soldiers S and U’s accounts is that although they both can clearly see that Oliver Hughes was still alive neither of them treat him until a significant time after the event.  They proceeded down the road to the station, had various conversations with other soldiers, and it was only on their return up to the car when they see an RUC sergeant was there then they treat Oliver Hughes.

The accounts of soldiers V, W, and X are similarly disturbing.  Soldier V states that he saw a man behind a wall opposite the RUC station.  He reports that he saw something in his hand as he moved towards him so he shot him. “He turned full on towards me and I saw something in his hand and I took it as an immediate threat and I engaged him.”

Soldier V also fired a burst into a body between the fence and the van after seeing a movement in the area of the body that caught his eye.

“…As I went along the side of the van I did a visual check on the first body.  I then moved my position beside the first body and started to do a visual check on the second body.  Suddenly there was a movement in the area of the first body that caught my eye.  I took it as an immediate threat to me and I turned and fired one burst into the first body.”

Soldier W states that while he was walking down the road behind soldier V he saw a man lying on his back in a driveway.  He said the man was still moving.  He saw something in his right hand and he immediately considered that soldier V and himself were under threat from this man so he fired “two single shots in rapid succession” into him.  He said there was no time to issue a warning to the man yet he was able to issue a warning to soldier V.

I saw a person lying on his back with his feet facing me.  This man was approx. ten feet along the driveway behind the gate.  This man was still moving.  I saw that his right hand was clenched and I saw something metallic protruding from the top of it.  I immediately believed this man to be a threat to Soldier V and myself so I engaged him by firing two single rounds in rapid succession….  The reason I did not give any warning before opening fire was because the threat to Soldier V and myself was so immediate that I would not have had time. ”

Soldier X states that he noticed that the passenger in the white car was alive.  He also saw the men lying in the driveway.  He said after hearing a warning from Soldier W he moved towards the body ands sae something in his right fist that “ he took to be a cigarette lighter”.

As I got up onto the driveway I noticed a person lying in the driveway and at that moment Soldier W shouted to ‘Watch out.  Watch out.  He’s got something in his hand’.  I moved over the laneway to clear the body and I saw the person was wearing yellow rubber gloves and clenched in his right fist was what I took to be a cigarette lighter.”

Soldier V and W stated that they felt under threat by this man lying in the driveway.  Soldier V stated that he believed that he was under fire from this man yet this man was unarmed and no-where in the vicinity of weapons.  Soldier V and W say that they felt threatened by the item in his right hand.  However Soldier X clearly states that he also saw this item and immediately recognised it as a cigarette lighter.  At no stage were warnings issued to this unarmed man. 

                The Aftermath.

 

Immediately after the shooting stopped all the SAS soldiers were airlifted out of Loughgall back to Mahon Road station in Portadown.  Each soldier was interviewed between 3.25pm on the 9th May until 9.35pm on the 12th May.  Some of these interviews taking place 4 days after the incident.

Dr Garvin from Co. Armagh was called to the scene at 9.45pm May 8th.  He examined the nine bodies and confirmed them dead.

Alistair Black an RUC sergeant arrived on the scene at 7.35pm and set up a vehicle checkpoint.  He spoke to the soldiers.  He preserved the scene until Detective Superintendent Neilly arrived on the scene at 8.22 pm.

Alwyn John Graham a scenes of crime officer was requested to attend Mahon Road Station at 10.05pm.  On arrival he was briefed on his duties.  He took possession of the firearms of the soldiers and packaged and labelled them.  

Constable William John Crompton a scenes of crime officer arrived at the scene of the incident at 9.56pm.  He examined the scene and noted the position of the vehicles and bodies.  During the course of his examination Constable Lenaghan, a police photographer, arrived at the scene and took photographs.  At 11.15pm Constable Crompton was joined by Dr. Murray, Brooks  and Wall, all scientists from the N.I. Forensic Laboratory and at 11.17pm by Constable Alexander and Anderson both members of the Mapping Section.  Constable Crompton briefed all on his observations and assisted Mr Wallace with the removal of all nine bodies from the scene and the packaging of IRA weapons.  Mr Crompton left the scene at 2.47am and returned the next morning at 10.34am to continue his examination of the vehicles and area.

George Campbell Jackson Detective Chief Superintendent arrived at the scene at 8.22pm on May 8th.  He examined the scene.

At approximately 11.15pm on Friday 8th Mr James Smyth Wallace a Forensic Scientific Officer arrived at the scene.  He examined the bodies and firearms in order to allow them to be removed from the scene.  Mr Wallace's report details the positions of the bodies and their clothing. [Ref.: Appendix 3]

Body 1.  Patrick Kelly

This body was lying face upwards on the ground at the front o/s of the Toyota van.  The body was dressed in a blue boiler suit with pink rubber gloves on the hands, a hood on the head and socks over the footwear……  There was a rifle lying on top of the body with a piece of “stone” on top of the rifle.  The stone was probably debris from the explosion at the RUC Station suggesting that this person was lying on the ground before the explosion…”

Body 2 Tony Gormley.

“This body was lying face upwards on the pavement at the n\s of the Toyota van in the vicinity of the open side door of the van with the head partly under the van.  The body was dressed in a blue boiler suit, with red rubber gloves on the hands and a hood over the head…The body was lying on top of the right leg of another body [body 3] strongly suggesting that body 3 was lying on the ground before body 2 fell to the ground.  The right arm of body 2 was under the right foot of body 3.”

Body 3 Seamus Donnelly.

“This body was lying face upwards on the pavement towards the n/s rear or the Toyota van.  The body was dressed in a blue boiler suit with yellow rubber gloves on the hands and a hood, which appeared to have been pulled just off the head when the body was on the ground.”

Body 4 Padraig McKearney.

“This body was lying face downwards along the o/s panel inside the rear of the van with the head towards the rear door.  The body was dressed in a blue boiler suit and red rubber gloves on the hands and a hood over the head.”  

Body 5 Jim Lynagh

“This body was lying face upward diagonally across the rear interior of the van with the feet towards the rear door.  The body was dressed in a blue boiler suit with woollen type gloves on the hands and a hood on the head…Pieces of a large cover that had been taped over the rear door window of the van were lying on top of the body suggesting that the body was on the floor before the explosion occurred.”

Body 6 Eugene Kelly.

“The body was seated in the drivers seat of the Toyota van.  The body was dressed in a grey anorak on top of a blue boiler suit and had woollen type gloves on the hands.  The body had massive damage to the top of the head and there was a woollen type cap lying on top of the n/s dashboard with pieces of scalp, tissue and blood on its inside surface.  I concluded that this cap must have been on the head at the time the body suffered the head damage.”

Body 7 Declan Arthurs.

“This body was lying face upwards in a laneway opposite Loughgall Football Club premises…The body was dressed in a blue “shop type” coat, jeans and sweatshirt with rubber gloves on the hands.  A disposable type cigarette lighter was lying on top of the body close to the right hand.  There was no boilersuit or hood on this body.”

Body 8 Gerard O’Callaghan

“This body was lying on its right side on the pavement at the Loughgall side of the laneway.  The body was dressed in a blue boiler suit with rubber gloves on the hands.  There was no hood on the body.” 

Body 9 Anthony Hughes

“This body was seated, with the seat belt on, in the drivers seat of a white Citroen GS Special car, reg. no. OIA 3428.  The body was dressed in a polonecked pullover and jeans.  There was no boiler suit, hood or gloves on the body.”

On examination of the vehicles Mr Wallace reported that all the shots directed at the Hughes car had originated from the Security forces.  There were 34 bullets that struck the Hughes car.  26 of these were fired from behind.

 

The bulk of the shooting at the Citroen car was intentional as opposed to the car being caught in crossfire.”  The IRA shots were “directed at the RUC station as evidenced by the damage to the perimeter fence and the bullet strike marks on the front of the station.”

 

 He also concluded that all bullet damage to vehicles in the vicinity were the result of security force weapons.  The bullet damage to the church, church hall and houses were also caused by security force gunfire.

 

 “Evidence of a close-range shot was found on the clothing of S Donnelly.” 

 

On Saturday 9th May William Charles Patterson ,a Detective Constable, arrived at the mortuary in Craigavon Area Hospital.  Over the course of the next two days Professor Thomas Marshall and Dr Jack Crane carried out the nine post-mortems.

 

All the eight IRA men who attacked Loughgall barracks were killed.  Each had multiple bullet wounds aimed directly above waist level.  According to pathologists reports there were very few injuries to the lower limbs.  Almost all of the dead had serious gunshot wounds to the head. What is important to note is the extensive nature of the injuries.  It is to say the least questionable that not one of the IRA men survived even for a few hours.  All were killed at the scene.  Should not the objective of the SAS have been to disable these men?  Is it not surprising that there were 100% fatalities?  Does this not point to the belief that there was a predetermined plan to kill all those involved in this attack?

 

Commentaries taken from Autopsy reports:

 

Patrick Kelly:

 

He had been hit by numerous bullets and fragments which had caused holes of varying raggedness and size and small abrasions on the left side of the scalp; the face; the neck; the trunk, mainly the left side of the front, the right side of the back between the buttocks; the right upper limb; each thigh and the left hand.  A few of these holes could have been uncomplicated bullet wounds but most were due to bullets deformed by striking an immediate target such as the wire fence around the police station or to fragments of bullets which had broken up after striking the road near where he was lying.  The abrasions on the right side of the neck were associated with scorching and there was an area of scorching on the right side of the pubic region.  This scorching was due to tracer bullets.

 

     A hole in the left side of the skull was associated with laceration and bruising of the brain.  There was a hole in the windpipe and in the right side of the cervical spine.  The sixth and seventh left ribs were fractured the left leaf of the diaphragm torn and the left lung lacerated.  The sixth thoracic vertebra was shattered and the overlying aorta, the principal artery of the body, was transected.  In the abdomen there was a hole in the stomach and laceration of the duodenum, jejunum, liver and gall bladder.

 

     The combined effects of these injuries caused his death.

 

Declan Arthurs:

 

He had been hit by bullets and fragments, which had caused wounds of varying size and raggedness and small bruises and abrasions.  A bullet had struck the back of the upper arm near the top of the armpit and it had gone to the right into the body shattering the left shoulder joint, fracturing the first left rib and the middle of the left collar bone, severing the left subclavian artery and each common carotid artery and transecting the upper part of the windpipe.  It was recovered from the base of the right side of the neck.  There was massive haemorrhage from these wounds into each chest cavity.  Two bullets had struck the left lower quadrant of the abdomen and gone upwards into the trunk.  They had lacerated the attachment of the transverse colon, the small intestine in two places, the stomach and the left lobe of the liver, then perforated the diaphragm, fracturing the lower end of the breastbone and the adjacent right ribs, lacerated the heart and holed the right lung.  One of these bullets probably made its exit high up on the front of the chest and the other bullet on the right side of the chest, 7 cm. directly to the right of the nipple.  A bullet or fragment had struck the left upper arm causing a large ragged wound at the back.  Another bullet of fragment had struck the top of the left buttock trangentially causing an interrupted transverse laceration and another had perforated the inner side of the left thigh just above the knee.  It was the combined effects of these injuries, which caused his rapid death.

 

 

Eugene Kelly:

 

He had been hit by a number of bullets, many of which had probably been deformed or had fragmented as a result of striking the bodywork of the van.  There was a large gaping laceration on the top of the head probably caused by a bullet striking the right side of the scalp and travelling across the head to exit on the left side.  The skull had been fractured into many fragments and the underlying brain was extensively lacerated.  This wound alone would have caused rapid death.

     Another bullet had struck the right side of the front of the trunk near the lower margin of the rib cage.  It appeared to have gone directly backwards, fracturing four of the ribs and lacerating the diaphragm and liver.  Fragments of this bullet were found in the liver and beneath the skin of the right side of the chest whilst others had exited through the skin.  There was an entrance wound on the left side of the chest, about 8 inches below the top of the armpit.  This bullet had gone backwards, slightly downwards and to the right across the left side of the chest, lacerating the bottom of the left lung and fracturing the posterior ends of the 11th and 12th left ribs.  The bullet had fragmented and most had exited through two lacerated holes on the centre of the back near the midline of the spine.  These wounds had caused considerable bleeding into the chest and abdominal cavities and this haemorrhage would have contributed to the fatal outcome.

     Fragments of bullets or vehicle bodywork had caused lacerations on the right side of the lower abdomen, on the right side of the back over the shoulder blade and on the upper part of the right arm near the armpit.  A bullet had gone through the left wrist and the remains of a bullet were recovered from a lacerated wound on the right forearm where the radius and the back of the upper part of the right thigh and appears to have made its exit, in fragments through holes on the front of the right thigh and inguinal region whilst others had caused three lacerated wounds on the front and inner side of the left thigh.

The majority of the bullets seem to have been directed from his right side.

Some punctate abrasions and puncture lacerations on the face could have been caused by fragments of glass from the windscreen or metal fragments from bullets and vehicle bodywork.  There was also an abrasion on the back over the left shoulder blade and a bruised abrasion on the back of the right thigh but they were trivial.

 

Gerard O’Callaghan:

 

Death was due to bullet wounds of the spine.  He had been hit by bullets and fragments.  One bullet struck the right cheek two inches in front of the ear.  It went to the left and downwards through the back of the mouth and the spine in the lower part of the neck.  The spinal injuries would have been rapidly fatal.  The bullet might have made its exit on the back of the right shoulder where there were a number of holes and small abrasions, most made by the impact of fragments.  A second bullet struck the back fold of the right armpit and went forwards, upwards and slightly to the left behind the shoulder joint to emerge on the top of the right shoulder.  The injuries caused by this bullet would not have been any immediate threat to life.  A third bullet struck the left flank, 6 cm. above the top of the hip bone.  It went to the right, backwards and slightly downwards into the back part of the lumbar spine where the bone shattered.  The bullet then probably made its exit through a wound overlying the spine.  This spinal injury was serious and would have contributed to the fatal outcome.  A fourth bullet or fragment crossed the right flank tangentially in a backwards and downwards direction causing a long perforating injury.  The injury was superficial not opening up the abdominal cavity.  The bullet did no serious damage.  A small fragment of bullet also embedded itself in the right calf.  The other injuries were very small bruises scattered on the back of the left upper limb and an area of bruising on the front of the right arm just below the shoulder.

     Internally apart from the injuries to the pharynx and spine already mentioned, there was just some bleeding over the brain surface, undoubtedly associated with the injury to the spine in the neck.  This haemorrhage would not have accelerated death to any material extent.

    

Jim Lynagh:

 

He had been hit by a number of bullets and fragments which had caused holes of varying size and raggedness on the face; the back and left side of the neck; the right shoulder; and both lower limbs.  A few of these holes could have been uncomplicated bullet wounds but most were due to bullets which were either deformed or had fragmented after striking the van, whilst others were due to fragments of metal from the bodywork of the van.

     There was an entrance hole on the right side of the head just at the top of the ear and some small fragments of bullet were recovered from within it.  The underlying skull was fractured and the brain lacerated.  Another missile had struck the right side of the face fracturing the cheek bone.  It had gone upwards through the base of the skull, lacerating the brain and transecting the brainstem, to probably lodge in the left side of the base of the skull.  A bullet had struck the right side of the face over the lower jaw, which was fractured.  The bullet had lacerated the pharynx, the back of the tongue and the upper part of the gullet and had fractured the hyoid bone and the voice box.  The combined effects of these injuries would have caused rapid death.

     Another bullet or fragment had struck the top of the right shoulder and had gone downwards and forwards to emerge at an exit hole on the left side of the front of the chest.  A missile had also struck the left side of the chest just above the nipple and had gone upwards under the skin to emerge at an exit wound overlying the left collarbone.  There was also a small puncture wound below the left nipple caused by a fragment of van bodywork.  None of these injuries would have posed an immediate threat to life.

     A tracer bullet had grazed the left side of the back, lacerating the skin, but causing no serious damage, whilst another bullet had perforated the right forearm.  A bullet had also gone upwards through the right foot and had grazed the front of the right shin and the knee.  It might have then caused a gaping laceration on the front of the thigh from where a bullet was recovered.  Another missile was responsible for a gaping laceration on the front of the left thigh.    

 

Padraig Mc Kearney:

 

He had been hit by bullets and fragments, which had caused holes of varying size and raggedness and small irregular abrasions.  There was a laceration on the top of the scalp, caused by a fragment of metal from the bodywork of the van, but this did no serious damage.  A bullet had struck the back of the head near the bony prominence lacerating the scalp and fracturing the underlying skull.  It had gone forwards through the cranial cavity lacerating the right half of the brain before lodging in the roof of the right middle ear where it was recovered in fragments.  The injury to the brain would have been rapidly fatal.

     Two bullets had struck the right side of the chest and one of these had gone forwards and to the left, through the right chest cavity lacerating the lower part of the right lung and the heart, before emerging on the front of the chest, below and internal to, the right nipple.  The other bullet had struck the right side of the chest lower down and had gone to the left and slightly backwards into the abdominal cavity, through the right kidney and had fractured the lumbar spine before emerging at a lacerated hole in the midline of the centre of the back.  Another bullet which had struck the left side of the back below the shoulder blade had gone upwards and forwards through the left chest cavity, fracturing one of the thoraic vertebra and several ribs, and lacerating the left lung before emerging on the front of the left shoulder.  These wounds would have been rapidly fatal.

     Two small puncture on the right eyebrow, a group of small puncture holes on the back of the left shoulder, a superficial laceration on the right forearm, a lacerated hole on the outer side of the left thigh and some abrasions on the right buttock and thigh were probably caused by fragments of metal from the bodywork of the van. None of these injuries would have been an immediate threat to life. 

            

Seamus Donnelly:

 

He had been hit by a number of bullets and fragments which had caused holes of varying size and raggedness and small irregular abrasions, on the back of the scalp; the right side of the face; the front of the neck; the trunk; the right upper arm; the left forearm and wrist; and each thigh.  Some of the holes were uncomplicated bullet wounds whilst others were due to bullets deformed by striking an intermediate target or to fragments of bullets which had broken up after striking the footpath or road near where he was lying.  Some other wounds were probably caused by fragments from the bodywork of the van close by.

     One bullet appeared to have struck the left side of the head just behind the ear and had gone through the base of the skull where it had fragmented before exiting through two lacerated wounds on the right side of the face, one at the right nostril and the other over the angle of the jaw.  There was another entrance bullet wound under the chin in the midline.  The track from this led upwards and backwards through the cervical spine and the back of the skull to an exit wound on the back of the scalp.  The bullet had then lodged in the hair from where it was recovered.  A third bullet had struck the lower part of the front of the neck in the midline and had gone upwards and backwards through the neck to emerge at an exit hole on the back of the trunk below the nape of the neck.

     Internally these wounds were associated with fracturing of the skull and both the upper and lower jaws; bruising and laceration of the brain; fractures of the cervical spine, the voice-box and the hyoid bone in the neck; and laceration of the pharynx, thyroid gland and oesophagus.  These injuries would have rapidly been fatal.

     Two bullets crossed the front of the chest diagonally probably from the left to right and in an upwards direction.  They had caused no serious damage however.  Another bullet had struck the front of the chest above and internal to, the left nipple.  It had gone backwards and to the right, through the heart sac, perforating the aorta and the gullet and lacerating the right lung to emerge at an exit wound on the right side of the back.  This bullet wound would have contributed to the fatal outcome.

    A missile had also struck the right flank penetrating the abdominal cavity and lacerating the bowel, which had been partially extruded from the hole.  There were two other lacerated wounds diagonally, one on each side of the back caused by fragments and three holes in the left axilla.  A further bullet had struck the front of the right upper arm near the shoulder.  It had fractured the underlying bone and had lodged in the muscle from where it was recovered.  A laceration on the right thigh was caused by a piece of bodywork from the van.     There was a zone of punctate discharge abrasion surrounding the entrance bullet wound on the front of the neck.  This extended onto the face and the front of the left shoulder.  Its appearance indicates that when the gun was discharged the muzzle of the weapon was probably within several feet of the body, probably whilst this man was lying on the ground.

             

 

Tony Gormley:

 

Death was due to wounds caused by bullets and fragments.  A tracer bullet had grazed across the front of the scalp within the hair.  Two bullets had grazed the outer side of the left shoulder and one had entered the base of the left side of the neck and made its exit on the back of the neck to the right of the midline.  On the right side of the neck there was a large hole, possibly an exit wound.  A small hole on the top of the right shoulder was probably a wound of entry.  Two small holes near the left breast were neat enough to be the entrance wounds of bullets.  Further down on the right side of the trunk there were two large irregular lacerations which communicated with one another beneath seven inches of intact skin.  On the left side of the back of the chest there were five holes and two elongated abrasions due to bullets or fragments which appeared to have been travelling across this part of the back in a direction from right to left downwards.  A bullet had almost severed the tip of the right forefinger.  Another bullet had perforated the left knee and thigh from front to back and a missile had gone transversely across the back of the left calf causing a large laceration.  Another had perforated the left shin from side to side below the knee and one had perforated the right ankle.

 

     Internally there was severe fracturing of the skull and laceration of the brain; laceration of the heart and the main artery to the left lung; transection of the aorta; laceration of the lower part of the trachea and oesophagus; fracturing of the third, fourth and fifth thoraic vertebrae and the inner ends of the adjacent right ribs; fracturing of the fifth and sixth left ribs; laceration of both lungs and haemorrhage into the right chest cavity; laceration of the spleen; and perforation of the left kidney associated with a fracture of the twelfth left rib.  The combined effects of these injuries caused his rapid death.

 

Anthony Hughes:

 

He had been hit by bullets and fragments, which caused holes of varying size and raggedness and small bruises and abrasions.  A laceration of the left side of the scalp and left ear had done no serious damage.  A bullet had struck the back of the right shoulder after passing through part of the car and it had gone forwards through the right side of the chest, lacerating the upper part of the right lung, before lodging in the right breast from where it was recovered.  Another bullet or fragment had struck the top of the left shoulder and it had gone downwards and backwards behind the shoulder joint to make its exit just above the back fold of the left armpit.  Another missile had made a hole in the front of the abdomen, where it probably entered, and another on the back of the left hip where it probably left the body.  There were other holes on the point of the left shoulder, on the left side of the chest below the armpit, on the right upper abdomen where there was associated scorching from a tracer bullet, in the region of the left elbow, on the back of the right elbow where part of a bullet was recovered from the tissues and on the front of the left thigh.  Smaller fragments had caused numerous bruised puncture holes across the back and down the left side of the trunk where there were also some areas of abrasion.  One of these areas, on the outer side of the left hip, was associated with scorching due to a tracer bullet.  Some bruising on the face was probably caused when he collapsed. 

     

     Internally, in addition to the laceration of the right lung, a bullet or fragment had lacerated the back of the heart and others had perforated the top of the stomach, the spleen, the attachments of the small intestine and had lacerated the left lobe of the liver.

    

     It was the combined effects of these injuries, which caused his rapid death. 

 

From the 9th May until the 12th all 24 SAS soldiers were interviewed at Mahon Road station in Portadown.  Each soldier was accompanied by at least one army lawyer.  On the 16th March 1998 at 2.15pm Detective Inspector Derek McLaughlin re-interviewed Soldier L.  Major Paphiti of Army legal Services accompanied soldier L.  He was re-interviewed at this stage because his original statement of 10/5/87 was unclear on how many rounds he had fired in the incident.  Soldier L was unable to clarify how many rounds he had fired saying it was somewhere between 80 and 100 rounds.  The interview ended at 2.45pm.

 

Soldier V was also reinterviewed on this date at 2.50pm.  His original statement of 12/5/87 was also unclear about how many rounds he had fired and was asked to clarify it.  Soldier V said “he couldn’t be exact as he had partially fired one magazine and discarded it because he felt it was about to run out”.  The interview ended at 3.20pm.

 

 

The years following the incident:

 

The deaths at Loughgall occurred on May 8th 1987.  An investigation was allegedly carried out by the RUC into the incident at Loughgall.  The RUC were very much a part of this incident.  The briefing of the soldiers had taken place at an RUC station in Mahon Road.  The SAS soldiers were returned there after the incident and interviewed there.  Three members of the RUC were involved directly with the actual incident.  It was a joint Army /RUC operation.  Therefore it would be reasonable to conclude that the RUC would not be in a position to effectively investigate impartially an incident to which they were directly involved in.  Their impartially to uncovering evidence of criminal wrongdoing would be questionable to say the least.  The families are unaware of the contents of the RUC report into this incident.  RUC investigations into lethal force cases have been subject to worldwide criticism.  Amnesty International have described their investigations as ineffective and have stated: “In some cases evidence has shown that police investigations may have been deliberately superficial in order to protect security force policy”.

 

 

On the 22nd September 1988 the Director of Public Prosecutions announced that no one involved in the shooting at Loughgall was to be prosecuted.  The families of the eight IRA men were never informed of this decision. 

 

The inquest into the deaths of the nine men killed at Loughgall took place in Craigavon Court Hose on May 30th 1995, eight years after the incident. The inquest system in the North of Ireland has indeed many flaws.  The rigid rules of the inquest system here include the fact that the Jury may only find HOW- In the strict medical sense, WHERE- in the purely geographical sense and WHEN- in the purely factual sense that a deceased person met with their death.  These facts are well known not only to family members but also to the public the immediate days following the deaths.  Statements of the SAS members were read into the records.  They were not required by the government or coroner to appear in court thus making cross-examination and a complete inquest impossible.  Oliver Hughes, however, [the surviving civilian] on the other hand was called to testify personally and subjected to a rigorous cross-examination by the state counsel.

 

Apart from pathologists’ reports, next of kin and counsel for them were denied access to all relevant documentation to the case until the actual opening of the inquest.  Even then the contents of any of the statements read out in the court were only supplied to counsel for the next of kin as the witness actually took the witness stand.  This ran contrary to the fact that all counsel for the state was supplied with comprehensive details of all the evidence years before the inquest.  Counsel on behalf of the families tried to struggle with this unsatisfactory situation for two days.  Despite repeated requests for the relevant material and time to study them he was repeatedly denied this by the coroner.  On the second day after a further request for an adjournment of the inquest to seek a judicial review of the coroner’s ruling the families withdrew from the farce and lodged an application in the High Court in Belfast seeking an adjournment and a judicial review.  Without the families present the inquest continued and concluded on the 2nd June 1995 with the jury finding that all nine killed at Loughgall died from gunshot wounds.

 

The hearing for a judicial review of the Coroner’s rulings at the inquest into the nine deaths at Loughgall took place at the High Court in Belfast on the 20th and 21st September 1995.  The judgement was reserved and after an eight month wait was delivered on the 24th May 1996.  Mr Justice McCollum denied the families their application for a judicial review on the basis that he did not believe that the coroner was wrong to withhold documentation from the families’ counsel.  He stated that it was the coroner’s discretion to give or withhold as he so wished and therefore he could find no ground for our application.

 

In June 1995 the families of the nine men killed at Loughgall formed a group known as The Loughgall Truth and Justice Campaign.  The title reflects the aims and objectives of the campaign.

 

· To establish the truth behind the events of May 8th 1987.

· To ensure that justice is served and that all those responsible for the nine murders are held accountable in a court of law for their actions that night.

 

Following the formation of the campaign the families embarked on imparting information to the public and into the political domain.  TDs, MPs, Human Rights groups, individuals and organisations were approached to assist and support the families in the pursuit for truth and justice.

 

On March 8th 1987 a mock trial of the case was heard in New York, USA.  It took place in front of a serving Supreme Court judge.  The aim of this mock trial was to highlight the facts of the case in the public and international arena.

 

In May 1998 three independent experts compiled reports under the charge of Mr Dennis Lynch a New York civil rights lawyer. [Ref.: Appendix 4].  These reports prove without a shadow of a doubt that the operation at Loughgall on May 8th 1987 was an operation designed to kill rather than arrest.  Mr Kenneth Cummings an ex Seal officer trained by the SAS concluded “the SAS operation on the day of the incident was not intended to prevent an attack on the RUC barracks.  Instead the operation was planned and executed to kill all IRA personnel involved in the incident. Otherwise stated, on May 8, 1987 the SAS acted as judge, jury and executioner for the nine residents of Northern Ireland, including one totally innocent civilian.  The fact that a second civilian was not also killed is the only operational mistake in the SAS plan of operation that day of the incident.” 

 

Mr Cummings also reported that “It is of great interest to note in confirmation of this report that the reported leader of the IRA personnel involved in this incident, Patrick Kelly, was someone who received mortal wounds while lying on the ground.  It is standard SAS practice for SAS forces involved as part of their operating procedures to kill by shooting in the head or anywhere while close-up, individuals who apparently survived an SAS operation or the reported leader of forces opposing the SAS.  The reported missing tooth of Patrick Kelly is also consistent with an SAS practice of taking a “souvenir” from a dead person as a “trophy” of a successful operation.”

 

The Independent Pathologist Dr. Hiroshi Nakazawa reports that:

Initially, I note that autopsies of nine individuals were performed over a two-day period of time.  On May 9, 1987 the autopsy of Anthony Hughes was performed from 11:30 a.m. to 2:55 p.m. by Thomas K. Marshall.  Mr. Marshall also performed the autopsy of Patrick Kelly on that same day from 2:55 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.  The autopsy of Micheal A. Gormley was performed from 5:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. to 9:25 p.m. that day.  Conducting these four autopsies in a back-to-back fashion is not a preferred practice and provides little time for the Pathologist to properly evaluate all pathology issues with an autopsy.”

 

He further notes that in the autopsy reports of Patrick Kelly that: “Of particular interest in the autopsy report of Mr. Kelly is the wounds to the head that exposed the brain.  The specific head wounds evidence as indicated in the commentary portion of the autopsy (that certain bullet holes were due to fragments of bullets that had broken up after striking the road area where Mr. Kelly was lying) raise serious questions about the manner of death of Patrick Kelly.” confirmation that Patrick Kelly sustained mortal wounds while lying on the ground.

 

The “autopsy regarding Declan J. Arthurs also demonstrates that evidence of firing at a close range was present.  The autopsy report of Gerard M. O’Callaghan likewise demonstrates an entrance bullet wound to the right cheek and also evidence that firing at the decedent was at close range.  Again, the foregoing presents serious issues regarding the deaths of these individuals.”

 

In addition he reports:

“Again, evidence exists of mortal injury sustained to this decedent, Mr. Donnelly, while he was lying on the ground.  Concerning the autopsy of Patrick McKearney, again bullet wounds were sustained to the head of Mr. McKearney as were bullet wounds sustained to the head of Mr. James M. Lynagh.  Also, of significance is that Eugene Kelly sustained a large gaping hole occupying most of the top of his head involving his scalp and the center and right side of his forehead of sixteen cm. in diameter”.

 

In September 1996 the families approached the Committee on the Administration of Justice in Belfast to represent them in taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that the right to life of the nine men were violated.  The case was lodged in November 1996 and to date the families await the admission of their case.  The Court will be told that the families believe that the following articles of the European Convention were violated: Article 2, 6, 13 and 14.

 

Many rights were violated by what happened on the 8th May 1987 and in subsequent events. The inquest did not take place for eight years after the event.  The Inquest coroner is supposed to decide whether to hold an inquest “without delay” and that inquests must be held “as soon as practicable”.  We need to know why it took eight years for the inquest to be held.  Was it a decision taken by the RUC or was it a political decision and if so why?  This decision was a clear contravention of Article 6 of the European Convention for the protection of Human rights.  Article 6 states that “…everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time and by an independent and impartial tribunal established by Law…” This simply did not happen in our case.

 

English Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane said that the inquest system is “…simply an attempt to establish the facts.”  The facts at our inquest were simply not permitted to be established and actually what did happen was that Oliver Hughes {the surviving injured civilian} was cross-examined by the MoD when they themselves and the State have said like Lord Lane that this is not to happen.

 

At a recent meeting with the British Minister for Victims and Minister for Security, Mr Adam Ingram said that we as families have the right to a judicial process and suggested we do this.  He is right! - We are entitled to have questions answered like what happened, and why?  The public is also entitled to know that something will be done to prevent a recurrence of such killings.  Everyone has the right to be heard, the right to know what is alleged, the right to defence, the right to cross-examine witnesses etc, which all add up to the right to a fair trial – but look what happened in our case.  The MoD was permitted to cross-examine but our counsel had to go for a judicial review to try to gain access to documentation that we were denied.  Even if we had gained access to all the relevant documentation, whom would we have cross-examined?  Those responsible for the deaths appeared as pieces of paper; the soldiers were merely identified as A-W. In order to go through the judicial process as suggested by Mr Ingram we need to identify these persons.

 

It has been argued that certain information can not be released to the relatives because of security risks.  However according to the British no PIICs were issued in relation to the Loughgall case.  PIICs are normally issued if the information that will be disclosed puts national security at risk.  If there were none issued in this case then there must be no risk to national security and therefore no reason why we as relatives should not be given details of what really happened that night.  We need to know why certain decisions were taken that night: why and by who was the decision made to murder these nine men instead of invoking the laws such as the PTA and the EPA?

 

What happened on the evening of May 8th 1987 and subsequent events have violated other rights under the Convention of Human Rights.  These include: Article 8 – relatives have had the right to family life violated – they have been deprived the right to have (or more) children.  Some of those murdered that evening had a family, others were young men, 19 and 21 years old, with girlfriends and a possible family each but it is those who have been left behind who have had to reconcile with the missed opportunity of not having a family.  Article 2 – those murdered have had their right to life denied.  Under Article 9 those murdered have been denied their freedom of expression, conscience, and religion. 

 

The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials suggest a morality in these issues and state that internal instability, which is the situation in the North of Ireland, should not be invoked to justify abuse of power to use force.  Those same principles advocate the “avoidance of force wherever possible and to exercise restraint where it is avoidable with a view to minimising injury and preserving life”.  Clearly there was no moral stance taken by the State forces that evening.  No attempt was made to set up checkpoints on the journey to Loughgall village.  The bomb would not have gone off and nine people would not be dead if the State forces had issued a warning to stop or surrender weapons.  No restraint was used when 37 bullet wounds were present on the body from the waist upwards on one man,     or when others were shot at close range or when the State forces “intentionally shot from behind” the two civilians in their car.  Restraint was possible in all ways because the fact remains that the State knew at least 24 hours before this incident was to happen.  All lives and the health of the survivor would have been preserved if the State had have taken that moral stance on the night of May 8th 1987.

 

With continuing reference to the Basic Principles on the Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officials, there are a number of violations of this international code by the British which we would like to highlight.

 

Provision 1:  “Government and Law Enforcement agencies shall keep the ethical issues associated with the use of force and firearms constantly under review” – in light of the controversial cases before Loughgall it is obvious that these reviews were rendered satisfactory.

 

Provision 2 and 3:  “…equip law enforcement officials with various types of weapons and ammunition that would allow for a differentiated use of force and firearms…non-lethal incapacitating weapons for use in appropriate situations…restraining the application of means capable of causing death or injury to persons”…”minimise the risk of endangering uninvolved persons…” It was a bright spring evening on May 8th 1987.  The state forces carried with them not only at least 24 hours previous knowledge IRA men were hoping to blow up a barracks but also Heckler and Koch rifles, general purpose machine guns, night sights on weapons, caltrops, armalites, ball, tracer and armour piercing ammunition, personal radios for 24 SAS personnel and a map and detailed briefing where they would carefully position themselves waiting to attack.

 

Provision 4 and 5: “…may use force and firearms only if other means remain ineffective or without achieving the intended result”.  It is obvious the intended result was to kill rather than maim.  The blue van that most of the IRA men were travelling in turned at least three times in the village 45 minutes before the bomb went off.  This begs the question that if the State forces knew all those hours beforehand of what could happen, then why did they not order the IRA to stop, surrender their weapons and arrest them under the rules of the Emergency Provisions Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act alone?

 

All the wounds on the bodies are from the waist upwards.  In other words all the vital organs of the body were targeted.  One of the IRA men was still alive when they were approached by the SAS and his hood was lifted and a shot fired at close range into his body to make sure he was dead.  Almost all of the relatives heard the news of the death of their loved ones on the radio.

 

Provision 7: No prosecutions have been made in this case

 

Provision 11: Completely violated by those involved that evening

 

Provision 19: Former SAS soldiers have described that they are trained to kill and they are the elitist and most highly trained group within the British military system.

 

Provision 24: One of the SAS soldiers that were involved in the murders has been reported to receive a medal of commendation after Loughgall.  We do not know who these people are and no Senior Officer has been held responsible.  The present Minister for Security has even told the relatives of those killed that he “accepted the decision that was taken that night”.

 

In relation to the Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Execution, no British government has recognised this mass execution as an offence under their criminal laws.  Mr Adam Ingram has also stated to the relatives that this matter is “out of his hands” as he states the British government do not have any sort of control over those officials authorised by Law to use force and firearms.   Not only did some of the deceased receive threats before their actual murder but also their relatives, including the unborn child of one of the men killed, have received death threats.

 

The last principle we would like to draw attention to is that of proper investigation.  The principle states that “there shall be a thorough, prompt and impartial investigation of all suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions, including cases where complaints by relatives or other reliable reports suggest unnatural death in the above circumstances”.  This has not happened in the case of all those murdered and left behind as a result of what happened on May 8th 1987.  It was only at the inquest some eight years after the event that, by accident, it was stated that it was the 14th Infantry that was involved in the killings and also that they knew at least 24 hours in advance of the attack.  A proper and thorough investigation would reveal all the facts of this disturbing case and allow for the truth to be told and the relatives to begin the grieving process properly.

 

 

            A Plan Designed to Kill:

 

The families believe that the planning and conduct of the security operation was designed to kill.  No measures were taken nor is there any evidence to suggest that preventative measures were even contemplated by the security forces to arrest the men involved or to prevent the attack.  The operation at Loughgall took place in the context of demands from Unionists and MP’s for a more aggressive response to the IRA following the death of Judge Gibson and his wife on 25th April 1987. 

 

On the 7th May 1987 Tom King the then secretary of state announced in the House of Commons that he had requested additional support to combat more directly the “present terrorist campaign”.  Security correspondents took this to mean the use of the SAS, which Mr King never denied.

 

The RUC Chief Constable at the time Sir John Hermon also stated the week prior to Loughgall that changes in security policy would be “tougher, different and sharper and in its capacity would be sharpened in an overt and covert way.”

 

The fact that the security forces had prior knowledge of the attack in Loughgall leads the families to question the methods employed by the security forces that night.  It is evidence that longer than 24 hours knowledge of the attack was available to the Security forces at the SAS had been flown in from England.  There would also have been extensive planning of the briefing session that took place at 8.30pm on Thursday 7th May.

 

As similar attacks had taken place by the IRA unit in the recent past the type of attack would have been known or reasonably assumed by the security forces.   The exact location of the attack was evidently known and the positioning of the units were carefully considered to ensure entrapment of the IRA unit in the small area surrounding the station. 

 

It would also be reasonable to suggest that the IRA members of the attack would have been well known to the Security Forces and had been undoubtedly under surveillance.  There is no evidence to suggest that attempts were made arrest, question or detain any of the men before the attack using the powers of the Emergency Provisions Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Acts.    The army and RUC detained Patrick Kelly on his way home on the Thursday evening of 7th May.  He was “beaten up” by them.

 

We would suggest that if the task of the SAS soldiers and RUC officers were as stated in their depositions to “prevent” and attack on the station then the best and the safest way of doing so would have been to stop the men on their way to the station before they had the opportunity to ignite the bomb.  There were numerous means that could have been adopted by the security forces to enable this:

 

· Security force activity in area of Loughgall could have been increased.

· Arrests of any of the unit or all would have halted the attack.

· If as suspected the unit was under surveillance the men could have been arrested as they collected their weapons and placed then in the van and as they collected and assembled the bomb on the digger.

· Caltrops could have been used on either side the station to prevent the vehicles from leaving the area on any occasion they passed by their station.  There is no evidence to suggest that this was even contemplated.

· The area around the RUC station could have been sealed off thus preventing the IRA from entering the area and thus preventing the attack.

 

Overall there is no evidence to suggest that the security forces took any preventative measures.  As evidenced in the Independent Expert reports there was not only a deliberate pre-determined plan to kill all those involved in the attack but there was also a blatant disregard for civilians in the area. In relation to Anthony and Oliver Hughes there was a failure on the part of the security forces to prevent civilians driving into the area. Not only was this failure reckless but it was criminally negligent.  There was no consideration given for public safety. The Forensic Evidence clearly states that the Hughes were fired upon deliberately from behind by at least 2 soldiers.  The fact that no other civilians were killed that evening is pure luck.  Heather Beggs and her young daughter, Patrick Tennyson and three elderly persons had a lucky and narrow escape.  There was no reason behind such a callous disregard for public safety.  There were no reasons why civilians could not have been prevented from driving into the area prior to and during the attack.    The reasoning behind such a reckless lack of care and responsibility can only be explained in the belief that the security forces did not want to risk alerting the IRA unit to their presence.

 

A further disturbing aspect of this incident at Loughgall is the excessive use of force by the SAS.  The fact is that at least 3 of 9 men killed were unarmed and no-where in the vicinity of weapons when they were shot dead.  The language the SAS use in their depositions is very revealing.  They use language such as firing until no further movement from target, neutralising further enemy gunmen, resuming fire until no further movement from that target etc….

 

The exact number of rounds fired by the SAS is under question.  It is difficult to determine from the reports at the inquest the exact number of rounds fired.  600 spent cartridges were recovered at the scene but it has emerged that this is a minimum figure.  Based on evidence available the amount of rounds fired falls between 600 and 2585.  The post mortem reports prove without a shadow of a doubt that each of the men suffered multiple gunshot wounds.  The van had over 125 bullet holes.

 

 

                 In Conclusion:

 

In light of the above the families conclude that the duty of the State is foremost to protect the right to life of its citizens.  At Loughgall there was a definite violation of this right by the armed forces of the State.  The onus is now on the State to reveal to the families of those killed the truth behind the events of May 8th 1987.  In light of the on-going process on the rights of victims and their families we believe that now is the time for the British Government to instigate a full, open, public and international inquiry into the incident at Loughgall on May 8th 1987.

 

Loughgall Truth & Justice Campaign