Families of those murdered in the Miami Showband massacre in County Down 36 years ago claim an inquiry has new evidence of police collusion with the killings.
Three members of the hugely successful group were killed in a 1975 attack by loyalist UVF paramilitaries as they returned home from a gig in the North.
Relatives of those killed now say that an imminent report from an inquiry into the massacre has unearthed the ‘likely involvement of an RUC Special Branch agent’ in the killings.
Speaking at the a Dublin press conference, the nephew of the group’s lead singer Fran O’Toole revealed their hope for closure after the publication of the Historical Enquiries Team report.
“It has been particularly devastating for us to learn that, in all likelihood, one of those involved in the murders of our loved ones was an agent of RUC Special Branch. We intend to pursue this issue with the authorities in the North,” revealed David O’Toole.
The full report into the Massacre has yet to be released in full. The families did release part of it after the Dublin media conference.
The document described the Miami Showband as: “A hugely popular group of young men who lived for their music and their families and had no political interests or connections to paramilitary activities.”
The report added: “They became the victims of a sectarian murder gang, amongst whose members were serving security forces personnel.”
Relatives also recalled how the band were flagged down and told to get out of their minibus by a group of armed men near the Border as they made their way home from a gig in Banbridge.
An explosion, which claimed the lives of two of the UVF men, followed before three members of the band – O’Toole, Brian McCoy and Anthony Geraghty - were shot dead.
Fellow band members Stephen Travers and Des McAlea survived the attack.
The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) admitted responsibility for the murders. Thomas Crozier and James McDowell, serving members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, were charged with the murders. A third, John Somerville, was arrested in 1980 and sentenced.
The report will now be passed on to Northern Ireland’s police ombudsman who will also examine the case against deceased UVF man Robin Jackson who was initially questioned about the attack but released without charge.
The document claimed: “The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) review has found that there was an opportunity to re-arrest him in connection with the murders the following year, when one of the guns used in the attack was recovered and was linked to Jackson.
“The review has found that Jackson alleged that he was tipped off that his fingerprints had been found on a tape on the silencer found with the weapon; Jackson reported that the information had come from two police officers.
“HET will pass this file to the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. However, the officers who could shed light on these issues, Det Supt Drew and Det Chief Insp Murray, are dead, as is Robin Jackson.
“It seems unlikely that it would be possible for that office to mount an effective investigation into these matters, but that decision is for the ombudsman alone.”