12 March 2009 Edition

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Controversy surrounds loyalist's murder conviction


THE conviction of loyalist Steven Brown for the brutal killings of Armagh teenagers Andrew Robb and David McIlwaine in February 2000 will not see the door closed on one of the North’s most brutal incidents.
Brown (also known as Steven Revels) was found guilty on Tuesday 3 March of killing 19-year-old Andrew Robb and 18-year-old David McIlwaine whose badly mutilated bodies were uncovered on a country road near Tand  ragee, County Armagh, after a night out.
Brown faces a life sentence with the possibility the trial judge will recommend a tariff of natural life.
The gang responsible for the double killing was part of the Mid-Ulster Brigade of the UVF and they killed the youths in retaliation for the breakaway Loyalist Volunteer Force killing of UVF commander Richard Jameson.
Jameson was shot dead just weeks before by the LVF and the UVF, bent on revenge, took Robb and McIlwaine from a party when two LVF figures they were looking for could not be found.
Since the killings, the Robb and McIlwaine families have campaigned to uncover the truth behind the killings.

Paul McIlwaine, David’s father, maintains that Revels’ conviction is part of a cover-up as he believes that the PSNI didn’t pursue other members of the gang because they are Special Branch agents.
Speaking outside Belfast High Court after Brown was found guilty, Paul McIlwaine said it’s clear that at least three people involved in the killings were being protected because they were agents.
“We’ve had to go to court time and time again to drag the truth out of the police and even today they are protecting some of the killers.”
In the course of the struggle to find the truth behind his son’s killing, Paul McIlwaine has uncovered that the building company run by UVF commander Jameson was paid up to £11m for work he carried out on RUC barracks and some of the North’s prisons.
It has also been disclosed that Jameson’s firm worked in DHSS offices in nationalist areas of the North, including west Belfast.

McIlwaine also believes that the willingness of the Prosecution Service to drop the murder charges against Brown’s co-accused, Mark Burcombe, after he agreed to give evidence against Brown was part of the state’s conspiracy to protect Special Branch agents.
After he agreed to “turn queen’s evidence” in February 2008, Burcome was transferred out of Maghaberry Prison to a secret location where he was debriefed by a team of specialist detectives for up to a week.
Burcombe pleaded guilty to reduced charges and was sentenced to 2 1/2 years’ imprisonment.
Speaking at the time, McIlwaine said he didn’t believe Burcombe had told the complete truth about what happened on the night of the killings, nor did he disclose his true role.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the Historical Enquiries Team is investigating a link between the Tandragee killings and Mount Vernon UVF man Mark Haddock.
In 2007, the HET was asked to investigate Haddock’s involvement in 19 killings, two of which were Robb and McIlwaine.

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