The families of three young boys who disappeared in Northern Ireland during the early years of The Troubles have launched legal action against the British State following the premiere of a groundbreaking documentary.
In "Lost Boys: Belfast's Missing Children," director Des Henderson explores the disappearances of five Belfast children who disappeared between 1969 and 1974, investigating links to a pedophile network operating in the city, which allegedly had connections to the infamous Kincora Boys' Home and loyalist paramilitaries.
David Leckey, 11, and Jonathan Aven, 14, both disappeared while playing truant from school in September 1969, while Thomas Spence, 11, and John Rodgers, 13, were last seen at a bus stop on the Falls Road in November 1974. None of their bodies have ever been discovered.
The dismembered remains of 11-year-old Brian McDermott, who was last seen in Ormeau Park in September 1973, were later discovered in a sack River Lagan at Annadale Embankment.
No one was ever arrested in connection with any of the five disappearances.
Following the release of Henderson's documentary on Friday, October 27, the families of Leckey, Aven, and McDermott have stated that they will launch legal action against the British State, claiming that the disappearances were part of a cover-up that went right to the top of the political establishment.
Owen Winters, a lawyer with human rights lawyers KRW Law, spoke on behalf of the families and said it was "glaringly obvious" that there was no attempt to link the investigations into the five disappearances.
"The documentary makes it glaringly obvious there was no attempt to link up all the cases in one themed investigation," Winters said.
"We say that omission was deliberate and calculated to make sure there would never be a proper inquiry into what happened.
"We are making applications to the Coroner for a conjoined inquest on all the cases. We will also file complaints with Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland over the systemic failures by police to investigate these missing body cases, treated as connected murder inquiries.
"In addition, we are issuing high court civil proceedings against the State for misfeasance, negligence, and conspiracy over the cover-up.
"Over and above this, we say there is now clearly a case for PSNI to start a thematic investigation into all the cases. As a starting point police would do well to engage immediately with the makers of the program."
Winters added that there was "something inherently wrong" with a justice system that relied on the work of investigative journalists before a "meaningful" inquiry could take place.
"Even though all the main suspect perpetrators are dead that doesn’t mean work shouldn’t start immediately. The passage of time ought not to prohibit a full-scale inquiry into the institutional failings which occurred here. That includes looking at links between the cases and the notorious Boys Home at Kincora," Winters said in a statement on behalf of the families.
"State agencies including MI5 were alleged to have prevented the full truth about Kincora historic abuse of boys during the 1970s, all of which happened in the same geographical area and time span as these missing boy cases.
"The families of the missing boys and Brian McDermott are long overdue some semblance of justice. We call on all engaged state agencies to do the right thing and help them to get just that."