Day of `The Jackal' has finally drawn to a close
Published 04/06/1998 | 00:11
NOTORIOUS loyalist paramilitary Robin `The Jackal' Jackson widely believed to have carried out the bombing of Dublin in 1974 and dozens of slayings since has died in his bed and been quietly buried.
Outwardly at least, the mass murderer was a man with scarcely a stain on his character and whose last few months were spent battling the cancer which killed him last Saturday. But intelligence officers who knew him say Jackson was a psychopath who took a grisly delight in dressing up to attend the funerals of his victims.
As he patiently explained, he felt a need ``to make sure they were dead''.
Sardonic and tantalising to the end, even in death he outwitted the media pack which had unsuccessfully dogged his footsteps for the past 25 years. His own funeral in a Lurgan, Co Armagh churchyard on Monday last was a strictly private affair which the cameramen didn't find out about until the coffin was six feet under.
Jackson went to his grave having broken a promise given to a former colleague in the Ulster Defence Regiment only last week, when he said he was resolved to record a video-taped account of his many butcheries for publication ``to set the record straight'' after his death.
He had read and approved, but not yet signed, a contract to do just that.
Jackson's bizarre semi-public reputation as the Lord High Executioner of the North's notorious ``murder triangle'' dates from his first arrest in October 1973, when the widow of a Catholic factory worker called Patrick Campbell picked him out of a police line-up in Banbridge, Co Down.
Mrs Campbell answered the door when The Jackal, and an accomplice, came calling. She had ample time to study both men's faces before summoning her husband, who was at once cut down in a hail of bullets and died on his own doorstep.
On her evidence Jackson was later charged with murder but two months after his first remand in custody he was mysteriously released when the DPP decided not to proceed against him.
Jackson's next public appearance was in the dock at Belfast Crown Court in January, 1981, when with two other loyalist gangsters, he was sentenced to seven years for possession of arms and ammunition.
The nationalist community was in uproar at the time, following the death of Bobby Sands and others on the hunger strikes. The Jackal was taken into custody for his own protection, security sources say. By then he was a by-word in the country of the little hills between Belfast and the border for the intensity and fury of his instinct to kill.
The producers of Yorkshire Television's `The Forgotten Massacre', a documentary broadcast in 1992, belatedly identified Jackson as a key member of the loyalist squad whose bombing raids on Dublin and Monaghan 18 years earlier had slaughtered 33 people. Although their evidence against him included eight hours of taped testimony from one of The Jackal's principal accomplices, the British law of libel is such that the station dared not name him. Fourteen months after the Dublin bombing Jackson led the loyalist team which ambushed the Miami Showband, on their way home from a gig.
As was the case in many of the atrocities which The Jackal perpetrated, this one went seriously wrong from the attackers' point of view. Two of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) assault team blew themselves up in the course of the attack.
Major Colin Wallace, one of the principal Deception Planners employed in the Information Policy Unit at the Army's Lisburn base during the formative years of The Jackal's career said: ``Everything people have whispered about Robin Jackson for years was perfectly true. He was a hired gun. A professional assassin. He was responsible for more deaths in the North than any other person I knew. The Jackal killed people for a living. The State not only knew that he was doing it. Its servants encouraged him to kill its political opponents and protected him.''