Family lodge complaint on 40th anniversary of loyalist murder

John Toland pictured with his wife, Marie, and seven children.
John Toland pictured with his wife, Marie, and seven children.

The family of John Toland, the father of seven who was shot and killed at the Happy Landing Bar in Eglinton forty years ago, is to lodge a complaint with the Police Ombudsman about various aspects of the RUC investigation.

At about 5.50pm on Monday, November 22, 1976, John Toland was serving drinks behind the counter of the bar when two men entered.

One of the men walked up to the counter and fired four shots into Mr Toland’s back. The UDA later admitted responsibility for Mr Toland’s murder using the cover name of the UFF.

In 2011, the family received a report from the Historical Enquiries team (HET) which highlighted serious failings in the investigation and confirmed that there had been collusion in the murder between members of the security forces and the loyalists killers.

Weapons and individuals involved in the murder were also linked to the murders of James Loughrey in Greysteel, Michael McHugh in Castlederg and Kevin Mulhern in the Waterside.

John Toland’s widow, Marie Newton, is now asking the PSNI Chief Constable why the UDA Brigadier in Derry at the time had never been questioned despite evidence that he had ordered the murders of John Toland and Jim Loughrey, as confirmed in the HET report.

“John was taken from us at 36 years of age,” she said.

“He left behind seven children. We never got over his loss and, if it hadn’t been for the late Bishop Daly, then I don’t know how I would have got through this.

“John worked every hour that God gave him to provide for his family. He was an amazing husband, a doting father and a caring son.

“We aren’t bitter or full of hate but John deserves answers and we deserve answers.”

Sara Duddy, of the Pat Finucane Centre - the Derry-based human rights group which has been advising the Tolands - added: “There was information that the local UDA ‘Brigadier’, a former B Special, ordered these murders and was possibly directly involved in one of them.

“He was also known to be close to a number of local UDR men and he left the city under unexplained circumstances in 1982.

“According to the HET, his details were put on the Police National Computer yet he visited the north west on several occasions and was never questioned.

“Was he a protected species? We believe that Special Branch was well aware of the activities of this gang and their security force links but chose to cover this up to protect a high level source.”

The Historical Enquiries Team concluded that it was likely that there was collusion between individual members of the security forces and those responsible for Mr. Toland’s murder, having examined the links between serving or previous members of the security forces as well as the linkage of the weapons used in the murders of Mr Toland, James Loughrey, Michael McHugh and Kevin Mulhern.

The HET review of November 2011 specifically mentions that ‘intelligence records show during the period covering the murders of John (Mr Toland), Kevin Mulhern, James Loughrey and Michael McHugh, there were reported associations between the former member of the Ulster Special Constabulary and unnamed members of the UDR.’

According to the HET, on the basis of its research, it was reasonable to conclude that there were links between the UDA leader and members and former members of the security forces involved in these murders.

The Toland family believe that this collusion was not investigated by the RUC.