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29 April 1999 Edition

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Loyalist victims lucky to be alive

``Hey boy. Are you just in this for the money?''

by Laura Friel

In a small front living room in West Belfast's Ballymurphy estate, two bruised and battered young men recount their ordeal at the hands of a loyalist murder gang. John Brady (30) does most of the talking. His cousin ``Jackie'' Dixon (28) sits with the immobility of someone still suffering a great deal of pain. Jackie's hands are so badly swollen that the medics are unable to determine the full extent of his injuries. Through dark purple swelling, his eyes barely open.

The story they tell is shocking. Abducted as they walked home from Turf Lodge through the Whiterock estate by a loyalist gang. Relentlessly beaten as a prelude to their seemingly inevitable deaths. The chaos of escape and final rescue. This is the third kidnapping and attempted murder incident in Belfast in recent weeks. Each of the victims have looked death in the face and then by some quirk of fate have thwarted their captors' murderous intent. But the tale is shocking, not only because of their brutal and fearful ordeal at the the hands of sectarian killers, but also because of the subsequent attitude of the RUC.

Why was the decision made to send only three RUC officers, two men and one woman, to an incident in which a frantic telephone caller had said a man was being murdered by a gang as he spoke? An RUC officer at the scene persistently pushed a witness aside, refusing to take his name and telephone number, let alone a statement, telling him to ``let the paramedics deal with it''. And the CID officer at Grosvenor Road barracks, whose first words to one of the two injured and traumatised victims were: ``Hey boy, are you just in this for the money?''

Sectarianism? The RUC would make any white racist cop in a Southern US town proud.

John and Jackie were walking home after spending the evening at a social club in Turf Lodge. It was around 2am in the early hours of Saturday, 24 April. Outside the Whiterock Health Centre a red car drew up behind them. One of the passengers jumped out and pushed something into Jackie's back. Threatened with what both believed was a gun, the two men got into the car as they were ordered.

``I was lying over the knees of men sitting in the back. One of them was holding my head down. Jackie was pushed in behind me,'' says John. John was still holding a bottle of beer as he was pushed into the car. When the grip of his captors slackened, John made his first escape attempt. ``They told me they were the UFF. I knew we were dead men and had nothing to lose so when I got the opportunity I tried to attack the driver with the bottle,'' says John. He was quickly overpowered and the gang drove on. ``When I get you out of this car I'm going to cut your throat,'' one of the gang threatened.

At Roden Street in the loyalist Village area, the two men were dragged from the car. Jackie was beaten unconscious. As John struggled with his assailants he heard one of the gang tell the others, ``knock him out, he can identify me.'' When they hit him again John pretended to be unconscious. The men jumped back into their car and drove away. ``As soon as they were out of sight, I got Jackie onto his feet and tried to drag him away,'' says John. A few minutes later a second squad of loyalists arrived. John left his cousin and ran for help.

On the Westlink, John flagged down a lorry and asked the driver for help. The driver telephoned the RUC from a mobile. The RUC arrived 15 minutes later with two ambulances. Both men were taken away to hospital where they were treated for concussion, cuts and bruises, broken fingers and knuckles. ``I was very annoyed about the attitude of some RUC officers,'' says John, ``When I went to make a statement, one CID officer said: ``Hey boy, are you just in this for the money. Another officer refused to take a statement from a witness.'' One CID officer told John that the RUC at Donegall Pass knew the gang who carried out the attack but there was no evidence to convict them. ``We're lucky to be alive,'' says John.


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