Shoot-to-kill: police must hand over file

The Chief Constable of Northern Ireland was today given a six-week deadline to hand over a top secret report into six alleged “shoot-to-kill” incidents almost 30 years ago.

The order was given by Northern Ireland’s senior coroner, John Leckey, during a preliminary hearing into the deaths of a teenager and five republicans.

All six died after operations carried out by the RUC in the Co Armagh area in late 1982.

During a brief hearing in Belfast this morning, Mr Leckey ordered the office of Chief Constable — soon to be taken up by Matt Baggott — to provide a redacted copy of the Stalker-Sampson report into the men’s deaths.

The report, which is the summary of a controversial investigation into the killings, has been locked away for more than two decades.

However Mr Leckey has ordered it to be handed over before the next preliminary hearing into the case on November 23.

Mr Leckey said the report was “relevant for inquest purposes” and added that public interest immunity would be considered “further down the line”.

The “shoot-to-kill” allegations refer to three separate incidents in late 1982:

* The killing of IRA men Gervaise McKerr, Eugene Toman and John Burns in Lurgan on November 11

* The shooting of Catholic teenager Michael Tighe near Craigavon on November 24

* And the deaths of INLA suspects Seamus Grew and Roddy Carroll near Armagh on December 12

An inquest into the six deaths was abandoned 15 years ago by Mr Leckey, after police refused to hand over the report by John Stalker and Colin Sampson.

Mr Burns (21), Mr Toman (21) and Mr McKerr (31), all from Lurgan, were shot dead by an undercover RUC unit near the town in November 1982.

Police said the men were travelling in a car which crashed through a roadblock at Tullyglass East Road on the evening of November 11.

Officers gave chase, opening fire and raking the car with 109 bullets.

Later it emerged that Mr Burns and Mr Toman were suspected of involvement in the killing of three RUC men a fortnight earlier.

Mr Tighe, who was 17, was shot dead in a police ambush close to his home at Ballyneery near Craigavon two weeks later.

The teenager, who was not affiliated to any terrorist organisation and had no criminal record, was killed by officers staking out a hayshed where IRA explosives had been stored.

A teenager wounded in the shooting, Martin McCauley, was later arrested in Colombia for aiding FARC terrorists.

Mr Stalker also investigated the killing of Mr Grew (30) and Mr Carroll (21).

The two INLA men were shot dead near Armagh in December 1982.

Mr Grew’s brother Desmond was later shot dead by the SAS near Loughgall.

The controversy surrounding the six killings led to an investigation by Mr Stalker, the deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police.

He claimed his inquiry was obstructed and was removed from the investigation in controversial circumstances. The inquiry was concluded by Mr Sampson.

However the findings of their investigation have never been made public.

* Source: The Belfast Telegraph.