The families of two men murdered by loyalists in Derry in 1976 have demanded to know if their deaths could have been prevented.
As highlighted in Friday’s Journal, reports by the Historical Enquiries Team have found that there’s likely to have been collusion in the murder of John Toland, shot dead in Eglinton on November 1976, and collusion cannot be ruled out in the murder of Jim Loughrey, shot dead at his Greysteel home in the same month.
On Friday both families held what was at times emotional press conference at the Pat Finucane Centre to express their concern and ask some direct questions of the Chief Constable and Secretary of State.
Danny Toland, the son of John Toland, who was shot dead in a bar he leased in Eglinton, said: “Our questions for the Chief Constable, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Secretary of State are these.
“What was the role of the UDA commander in Derry at the time of these murders? Was he an agent who reported to his handlers? Could these murders have been prevented? Could my father be alive today?”
Danny Toland described his father as a “warm, generous loving father and husband” who did not “have a sectarian bone in his body”.
He said his father was shot dead because “his crime was to be a Catholic”.’
The HET report in the Toland case concluded that there it was ‘likely there was collusion’ in the murder.
A serving member of the UDR, David Hamilton, was convicted of handling the guns used in the murder.
The same gun was also used in the murder of Jim Loughrey, who was shot dead at his own home in Greysteel - although no one has ever been charged or convicted in connection with this killing.
His son Jim said: “Though some of the same individuals, some of the same guns, the same UDR source and the same organisations were involved in the murder of John Toland, disappointingly the findings in our case are weaker and contradictory.
“The finding that ‘collusion cannot be ruled out’ is, to put it mildly, unconvincing.”
John Loughrey added: “As a family we had serious concerns in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
“Our father had received death threats because of his republican views and feared genuinely for his life. Shortly before the shooting a UDR checkpoint had been in place at the entrance to the village.”
Similarly the HET report found that just minutes before John Toland was shot dead there had been a security force checkpoint in place nearby.
Both families asked how was it possible that the then commander of the UDA in Derry, a man called Andy Robinson, was never arrested or questioned about the killings even though he was named by a witness as being the man who gave the orders for both murders.