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14 January 1999 Edition

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Sectarian killer gets life

By Peadar Whelan

Norman Coopey, found guilty of the brutal sectarian killing of sixteen year old schoolboy James Morgan, was sentenced to life imprisonment at Armagh courthouse last Friday 8 January.

However, according to the boy's father, Justin, 27 year old Coopey could be on the streets within 18 months under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Although the RUC initially refused to describe James Morgan's death as sectarian Coopey moved to the LVF wing in the H Blocks within a month of being charged.

And at the time of the boy's killing near Clough, Co Down, in late July 1997, An Phoblacht said those responsible were connected to the UVF. In fact the killers had switched allegiance from the UVF to the LVF in support of Portadown loyalist Billy Wright. As UVF activists they had been involved in numerous loyalist operations over the years.

Connected through a number of prominent loyalist families in the area, this UVF/LVF gang carried out the Loughinisland killings when six men were shot dead in June 1994 as they watched a football game involving the Republic of Ireland. They were also responsible for the killing of Dundrum businessman Jack Kielty.

James Morgan was abducted on Thursday 24 July as he left Newcastle on his way home to Annesborough just outside Castlewellan in County Down. On the following Sunday his badly burned and mutilated body was found in a sinkhole used to bury the carcasses of dead animals. He was identified only by dental records.

Sinn Fein criticised the RUC investigation into the killing, not only because the RUC refused to say it was sectarian, but by doing so they ``were trying to defuse public concern''. Also the RUC questioned one other suspect using PACE legislation: legislation which is used in ordinary criminal investigations.

It was thought that at the time between eleven and 16 attackers were involved in the killing yet Coopey was the sole gang member to be charged.

Coopey had in fact given himself up to the RUC the morning after the killing and confessed to his part in it. He admitted it was a sectarian attack on an uninvolved Catholic yet the RUC still refused to say it was sectarian.

Even the Irish News in its editorial on the day after Coopey was sentenced raised questions about the RUC's refusal to say the killing was sectarian thus calling into question the seriousness with which they treated the investigation.
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