Derry family seek probe into police handling of father of eight’s murder

Jim Loughreys funeral took place at Star of the Sea Church, Faughanvale.
Jim Loughreys funeral took place at Star of the Sea Church, Faughanvale.

The family of a man murdered by loyalist paramilitaries 41 years ago will today (Friday) lodge a complaint with the Police Ombudsman over the original investigation into his death.

Jim Loughrey (36), a father of eight, was at his home in Greysteel in Co. Derry when he was killed.

Jim Loughrey was murdered by loyalists in his Greysteel home in 1976.

Jim Loughrey was murdered by loyalists in his Greysteel home in 1976.

He was shot several times when confronted by two men at his Greysteel Cottages home on the night of November 14, 1976.

He was taken to hospital where he underwent surgery but passed away eleven days later on November 25.

The Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) - a cover name used by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) - claimed responsibility.

There were no arrests in the aftermath of the murder and no-one has ever been charged or convicted in connection with the killing.

A report by the Historical Enquires Team (HET) in 2012 concluded: “While the possibility of collusion cannot be discounted, the HET has found no evidence that any member of the security forces was involved in any way in the preparation, planning or murder of the murder of Jim.”

The Loughrey family, however, is convinced the security forces colluded with loyalists in their father’s death.

Johnny Loughrey, a son of the deceased, told the ‘Journal’ this week that his father has been killed by the same loyalist gang that carried out a number of murders in the area at the time.

Both guns used in his father’s murder were also used in the murder of Kevin Mulhern in Derry’s Waterside the previous month while one of the revolvers was used in the murder of Derry man John Toland in Eglinton just days later. Both these attacks were attributed to the UDA.

Johnny Loughrey says his father’s murder was ordered by the UDA commander in Derry at the time - a former ‘B’ Special and Royal Marine who, he says, is also implicated in other murders and serious offences.

He 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. When, 10 years later, we discovered that new information had been provided by a loyalist prisoner, Leonard Campbell, we waited in vain to see if convictions would follow. None, unfortunately, did in our case.

“One of our primary concerns is the role of the UDA leader in Derry at the time, described in the HET report as ‘suspect 1’ but who we know to be Andy Robinson. This individual was alleged to have ordered and planned the murder, according to Leonard Campbell. It should be remembered that Campbell’s evidence was found to be substantially reliable and led to a number of convictions.

“I find it incredible that Campbell’s evidence led to the arrest of 30 loyalists in the Derry area but not to the arrest of the former UDA leader who was directly implicated.”

Johnny Loughrey, who was aged just nine when his father was murdered, says the killing had a devastating impact on his family.

“My mother, who was 34 at the time, was left with eight children between the ages of 4 and 15,” he recalls.

“She is an amazingly resilient woman and did an incredible job raising us despite the financial and emotional hardships caused by our father’s murder.

“The impact of our father’s murder has been far reaching. My father believed strongly in education for his children and one lasting impact of his murder was that we did not have access to the educational opportunities he had hoped for.

“Personally speaking, after the shooting I couldn’t sleep at night and until I was in my teens I had this fear and dread that my mother would also disappear as suddenly as my father had.

“I also had nightmares that someone was going to shoot me. But, as regards the actual night of the shooting, I had simply blacked it out of my memory and could remember nothing at all. It wasn’t until 1983 that everything came back to me.

“What brought it back was a shooting in south Armagh - it took place at a church in Darkley. Someone had made a recording of the actual shots being fired and, when I heard that, it just brought everything rushing back.”

Johnny Loughrey is also appealing for witnesses to come forward.

“My father’s case was reviewed by the HET and there was no record of any house to house enquiries or eyewitnesses providing evidence, despite the shooting taking place on a reasonably busy evening. People were making their way home after Mass so we know there were people in the area.

“I would also appeal to people in the unionist community to come forward with any information that they may have. Perhaps at the time of the murder they, for whatever reason, felt they couldn’t speak out. Now, however, 41 years on, perhaps they will feel different and can help us get to the full truth of our father’s murder.”