T he family and friends of a North Belfast teenager gunned down by loyalists as he made his way home from a night out are to hold a community inquiry into his murder on the tenth anniversary of his death next week.
Gerard Lawlor was shot dead on July 21 2002 as he made his way home from the Bellevue Arms to his home on the Whitewell Road. Ten years later no one has ever been brought to justice for the 19-year old’s brutal murder, no inquest has ever been held into his death and the family continue to wait for a Police Ombudsman’s report into his killing.
Gerard Lawlor was the last Catholic shot dead during the Troubles and his was one of the first paramilitary murders investigated by the then newly formed PSNI.
The community inquiry will be held in St Enda’s GAA Club where the father-of-one was a popular member and played football for the senior team.
The inquiry is set to reveal shocking information about events leading up to his killing as well as the botched PSNI investigation into his death including that:
• Despite four different attempts by loyalists to kill a Catholic in North Belfast on the same evening, police failed to enact the major contingency plan they had in place for serious security events
• Even more shockingly part of the same contingency plan included coordinated Vehicle Checkpoint areas at certain locations in the area. One of which included the Antrim Road/Whitewell Road junction yards from where Gerard Lawlor was murdered
• A female witness known as Witness X, was able to identify two of Gerard Lawlor’s killers. Witness X claimed that two males had confessed to her that they had committed the murder and she provided the names of those concerned to the Confidential Telephone and later to solicitors. The woman was never interviewed by police and it later emerged her original phone call to the confidential telephone was never taped or no record even made of the call
• The family believe the two men Witness X named were protected by police because they were informers
• Vital evidence was not gathered including the interviewing of witnesses
• A taxi driver whose car was hijacked and used by the loyalist gang for one of the night’s earlier shootings and who gave a good description of the hijackers was never asked to identify any suspects
• A petrol can used to burn out the same taxi, that can be seen in the PSNI’s own photographs of the scene, was never recovered
Jurists at the Community Inquiry will include Jane Winter from British Irish Rights watch and Gemma McKeown from the Committee from the Administration of Justice as well as a third panel member who is to be confirmed.
The public event has been organised by the Lawlor family and friends, Relatives for Justice and St Enda’s GAC.
Solicitor for the Lawlor family Niall Murphy said the serious failings in the PSNI investigation coupled with the lack of inquest and the delay with the Police Ombudsman’s report has led the family no other choice but to proceed with their own form of inquiry.
“The community inquiry has been convened to try to refocus the community’s attention to this murder and show how little progress has been made to find justice for Gerard Lawlor and his family,” he said.
“The family fear that Gerard’s murder was a drive by shooting with a drive by police investigation. That was the experience of other intended murder victims that night. This will be illustrated at the event.
“It is hoped that the Community Inquiry will bring the case to the public’s consciousness again and will provoke the PSNI to exhaust all of the lines of enquiry which exist.
“The family is confident that the evidence and investigative ability is in existence to bring successful prosecutions in this case.”
The Community Inquiry will take place on Saturday July 21 at 12.30pm at St Enda’s GAC. All members of the public are welcome to attend.