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9 October 2003 Edition

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My son deserves justice - Police Ombudsman asked to probe collusion case

Gerard O'Hara, shot by loyalists

Gerard O'Hara, shot by loyalists

The family of a young Catholic man shot dead by unionist paramilitaries in 1992 has requested the Police Ombudsman's Office to investigate allegations that an RUC detective supplied information to the UFF/UDA death squad that killed him.

Gerard O'Hara was only 18 years of age when two gunmen burst into his north Belfast home and shot him 17 times as he and his mother were sitting down to watch television. The vicious attack happened shortly before 5pm on the night of Sunday, 27 September 1992.

O'Hara had instinctively tried to shut the door of the living room in an effort to keep the gunmen from reaching himself and his mother, but one of the attackers simply dropped to his knees and shot the young man through a glass panel in the bottom of the door.

While his terrified mother pleaded in vain for the gunmen to spare her son's life and kill her instead of her dying child, the UFF men shot Gerard in the head from point blank range.

An RUC detective later told an inquest into the teenager's death that Gerard had no connection to any paramilitary group.

The O'Hara family has decided to approach the Ombudsman's office after the release of a new book detailing the rise and fall of notorious UDA/UFF leader Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair and his Shankill 'C' Company.

The book alleges that a CID man told a loyalist who was being questioned in Castlereagh that a brother of Mr O'Hara's had recently been involved in the killing of a British soldier.

This claim was untrue.

However, only weeks later, the UFF entered the O'Hara home on North Queen Street and shot young Gerard dead.

The recently published book names 'C' Company thug Steven 'Top Gun' McKeag as one of the gunmen at the scene and goes on to claim that the same CID detective later urged another 'C' Company gunman to target Sinn Féin, suggesting several places the UFF could target, including a bar on the Falls Road and the party's headquarters in West Belfast.

McKeag died of a drug overdose in 2000, but the individual named as the second gunman, Gary Smith, is still alive.

Smith is one of Adair's closest allies. He was freed from jail in 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement after being sentenced to 16 years for possession of weapons and conspiracy to murder - although those charges did not relate to the O'Hara shooting.

He was returned to jail in 2002 in relation to a bomb scare at Holy Cross Primary School in North Belfast. Since his release earlier this year, he has joined other 'C' Company "exiles" in Bolton.

The book states it was Smith who revealed that Gerard O'Hara was killed because of information provided by the CID man.

Sinn Féin's North Belfast representative Gerry Kelly has added his name to the list of many others who are calling for an inquiry alongside the O'Hara family.

"The claim that the killing was carried out as a result of information passed to the UFF by a member of the RUC must be fully investigated," said Kelly, "including whether or not this individual is now a member of the PSNI."

The O'Hara family has always believed there was collusion involved in Gerard's killing. Even back in 1992, just after the deadly attack, they had questioned how an RUC search of their living room failed to find four bullets lying where the teen was shot.

"We always knew there was collusion in Gerard's murder but were unable to prove it," said Gerard's father this week. "Now we want Nuala O'Loan to reopen the case.

"The UFF killed my youngest son but it was with information passed to them by the RUC. The police are supposed to be protecting the people, but here was a policeman giving information to loyalists that led to my son's murder.

"My son deserves justice and we intend to make sure that happens."

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