5 years after brutal killings, patience of the families begins to run short

Murder witnesses asked to ‘do the right thing’

By Francesca Ryan

The families of two men brutally murdered five years ago in Belfast have hit out at the investigation into their deaths. Eddie Burns was found shot dead at the Bog Meadows on March 12 2007. A short time later Joe Jones was found in an alleyway off Elmfield Street in North Belfast – he had suffered horrific  head injuries likened this week to the work of the Shankill Butchers. It’s believed they were killed by members of the Continuity IRA.

In 2009, Gerard Mackin, from West Belfast, was jailed for life for the murder of Mr Burns.  The conviction was later quashed by Dublin’s Court of Criminal Appeal when the trial collapsed after a witness refused to give evidence, saying he was under threat by paramilitaries. To date, no-one  has been held accountable for the deaths, leading the families – with the support of Relatives for Justice and Community Restorative Justice – to speak out this week.

”We decided five years ago to maintain a dignified silence about the murders and we told the PSNI we would put our trust in them to pursue our loved ones’ killers,” said Joe Jones’ wife Linda. “We have resisted the temptation to break the silence, although there were many times over the last five years that we were frustrated at the failure to bring the killers to justice or to follow up what were in our view very obvious lines of inquiry.  We have often felt let down and disappointed both by the police and also by the Public Prosecution Service. Five years on, we have decided that it is now time to speak out about the vicious murders of Eddie and Joe and about failures to bring the killers to book. The system has failed to deliver.  We are now increasingly concerned that police and others may be prevented from doing their job by the hand of the intelligence services. We are calling on the PPS once more to do everything in their power to come clean with us about any obstacle which being placed in the way of this investigation.”

Eddie’s mother, Kathleen Burns, made an appeal to the community to help the families secure justice.

“We are convinced we can still get justice,” she said.  “The sheer brutality of the murders of Eddie and Joe, carried out by men who had been drinking all day, makes it difficult to accept that anyone could protect those who carried it out. There are people in our community who still have vital pieces of evidence which could yet bring these vicious killers to justice. Many people were dragged into the cover-up of these killings through misplaced loyalties. We ask those people to examine their hearts, for even at this late hour it isn’t too late to do the right thing.”

The families say they plan on calling for meetings with the police, the PPS and the justice ministers north and south of the border, as well as asking for an independent assessment of the forensic evidence.

West Belfast MP Paul Maskey says he supports the families’ campaign for justice.

“The deaths of these two men was similar to the deaths the victims of the Shankill Butchers suffered,” he said.  “I commend the families. For five years they have tried to let the system do its job and now they are launching a fight back for justice in a very dignified matter.

“It’s shameful the state has left these families down. There does seem to be many questions that need answered. Some are of the view that there could be a dark hand involved. I’m fearful that someone from the state agencies could be trying to protect someone.”

A PSNI  spokesman said the case remains open and appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

 

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