Miami Showband massacre report points to RUC collusion, families say
Published 15/12/2011 | 05:00
THE families of three men murdered in the Miami Showband massacre have said a report into the killings indicates that an RUC Special Branch agent was involved, along with members of the British army's UDR regiment and the terrorist UVF.
Three members of the hugely popular band were shot dead in July 1975 after being stopped at a bogus British army checkpoint in Co Down made up of members of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Regiment.
The band was lined up while gang members tried to hide a bomb on the bus -- but it went off prematurely, killing two UDR/UVF members.
The gang then opened fire, killing three band members -- lead singer Fran O'Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpeter Brian McCoy. Bass player Stephen Travers survived but was badly wounded while fellow band member Des McAlea was blown clear from danger.
New evidence in the case found by the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team (HET) centres around the involvement of notorious loyalist leader Robin 'The Jackal' Jackson -- believed to have been an RUC Special Branch agent -- as well as the role of soldiers in the UDR.
Jackson's fingerprints were found on a silencer attached to a Luger pistol that was used in the murders.
The cold-case unit found evidence that he was tipped off by an RUC detective superintendent and a detective sergeant and warned "to clear as there was a wee job up the country that he would be done for".
Jackson has also been long suspected of being involved in the massacre caused by three UVF bombs in Dublin in 1974.
Stephen Travers, the band's bass player, said: "We believe the only conclusion possible from the report is that one of the most prolific loyalist murderers of the conflict was an RUC Special Branch agent and was involved in the Miami Showband attack."
Des McAlea, the other survivor said: "It's been a long time but we've got justice at last."
He described the HET findings as "quite shocking", adding: "The fact that there was collusion in this is such a tragedy for all of us concerned."
The HET found Jackson's "stark" claims that he was told to lie low were passed on to RUC headquarters but there were no records of any further investigation. It commented: "Disturbing questions about collusive and corrupt behaviour are raised."
It is believed the UVF's intention was to hide a bomb under the band's minibus which would explode on their journey back to Dublin, killing them and so portraying them as transporting explosives for the IRA.
David O'Toole, nephew of Fran O'Toole, said: "It has been particularly devastating for us to learn that in all likelihood one of those involved was an agent of RUC Special Branch."
Responding to the findings, a clearly emotional Mr McAlea said it had been a long and winding road over the past 36 years for all the families of the victims, as well as the survivors.
Both Mr Travers and Mr McAlea said one of the gang on the night was more authoritative than the others and spoke with a "posh English accent".
Although the HET believes that man was UVF man James McDowell, the survivors remain adamant that he was English.
Three men were convicted for their part in the massacre. Thomas Crozier, James McDowell and James Somerville all received life sentences, but were later released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
Jackson went on trial in 1976, charged with possession of the silencer, but was acquitted.
He died in 1998.