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4 November 1999 Edition

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Families seek truth after 25 years

RUC implicated in double killing



by Laura Friel

WHY DID RUC officers who recognised the UDR checkpoint as a ``fake'' when they were illegally stopped by loyalists 45 minutes before a double sectarian murder do nothing to challenge the masquerading gang?

That's the question which Sean McCartney, the brother of one of two GAA fans who were killed at a bogus UDR roadblock almost 25 years ago, wants answering now.

Colm McCartney and Sean Farmer were travelling from Dublin back to Derry after attending a GAA football semi final in August 1975. Their bodies were found, riddled with bullets, just before midnight, a few hundred yards north of the border in Tullyvallen, near Newtownhamilton.

``We always suspected collusion by the RUC or UDR,'' says Sean. The family's suspicions were raised after the bodies of the two men were found outside their car. They were later told by the RUC that there had been a ``fake'' UDR patrol in the vicinity just prior to the killings.

``Over the years, a number of people who also drove through that bogus checkpoint have spoken to us,'' says Sean. Why Sean and Colm were specifically selected for murder might never be known. ``Obviously they were easily identified as Catholics,'' says Sean. ``Perhaps they also drove into the checkpoint alone.''

Confirmation of an RUC patrol also being stopped at the bogus checkpoint recently came to light via a copy of inquest affadavits in which three RUC officers - Sergeant F. Bartholomew and Constables Robert Harvey Gibson and Mervyn Coleman - described the incident.

According to the documents, an armed RUC patrol ``in uniform, with a civilian jacket over tunics'' and travelling in a ``hired'' car, was heading towards the border on the main Newtownhamilton to Castleblayney Road when they were stopped by a man dressed in ``full military combat uniform'' and waving a red torch. The RUC patrol also saw a second man, dressed in a similar uniform and carrying an SLR rifle, lying in a ditch.

The RUC officers describe how one of the uniformed men approached their vehicle and asked for the driver's licence before realising that the three men in the car were members of the RUC. ``Realising something was wrong,'' says RUC Sergeant Bartholomew, ``I told Constable Gibson to drive on.''

After the incident, the RUC patrol drove back to their barracks. On the way, they radioed ahead to check that there were no authorised UDR patrols in the area. It was confirmed. The RUC patrol was stopped at 10.45pm. The inquest puts the time of the two deaths at 11.30pm. ``The RUC had 45 minutes to do something and they did nothing,'' says Sean.

But the questions don't stop there.

Presumably, after the killings, the RUC patrol would have been able to provide vital identification evidence for the ongoing murder investigation. Yet, to date, no one has been questioned about the killings by the RUC.

In a recent affidavit by former RUC Sergeant John Weir, Weir names those involved in the Farmer/McCartney murders. He names UDR Sergeant Robert McConnell, Portadown UVF killer Robin Jackson, and an RUC Reservist. ``The RUC Reservist named by Weir is still alive,'' says Sean, ``but as far as we know, he has never been questioned about the killings. For all we know he may still be a serving member of the RUC.''
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