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GLENANNE GANG Revealed: The ex-RUC officer suspected of brutal Reavey brothers' murders

Reavey brothers John Martin (24) and Brian (22) were gunned down as they watched the TV show Celebrity Squares in their family home at Whitecross

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Ex-RUC officer Laurence McClure

Ex-RUC officer Laurence McClure

Ex-RUC officer Laurence McClure

The Sunday World can today reveal the identity of the former RUC officer suspected of involvement in the murders of three innocent Catholic brothers 45 years ago.

Laurence McClure was once a member of the infamous Glenanne Gang and was convicted of bombing a Catholic-owned pub.

Reavey brothers John Martin (24) and Brian (22) were gunned down as they watched the TV show Celebrity Squares in their family home at Whitecross on January 4 1976.

Their younger brother Anthony (17) managed to crawl to a neighbour's house for help, but died in hospital days later.

The shooting at the Reavey home sparked a carnival of slaughter which saw 16 people lose their lives in 24 hours.

Just 20 minutes later, three members of the O'Dowd family were shot dead when serial killer Robin Jackson led a UVF hit team into their home at Ballyduggan, near Gilford, Co Down. The attacks were co-ordinated.

And the following evening, the IRA slaughtered 10 innocent Protestant workers at Kingsmills Crossroads, less than a mile from the Reavey home.

This week, Eugene Reavey - a brother of the dead boys - was told by the Police Ombudsman's Office that there had been a major breakthrough in the unsolved case.

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Inside the Reavey family home shortly after John, Brian and Anthony Reavey were gunned down

Inside the Reavey family home shortly after John, Brian and Anthony Reavey were gunned down

Inside the Reavey family home shortly after John, Brian and Anthony Reavey were gunned down

Eugene is well known as a tireless campaigner for justice for his murdered brothers.

Investigators called at the Reavey farmhouse on Monday to deliver the news in person.

They informed Mr Reavey that as a result of new information, a file had been prepared which was currently being examined the Public Prosecution Service.

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It is believed, that in the near future, charges will be put in court to a man suspected of involvement in the triple murder case.

In an interview with the Sunday World this week, Eugene said he was unaware of the identity of any of those currently under suspicion.

"To tell you the truth, I'm still in shock," he said. "As a family, we've been campaigning for 47 years. But I can't tell you anymore because I don't know.

"But this is the first time we have been anywhere near a prosecution. I just don't know any more than that. I know I shouldn't be, but I'm still stunned at how quickly things appear to be moving."

But security sources have told the Sunday World that ex-RUC officer Laurence McClure is likely to be charged in connection with the case in the near future.

A self-employed mechanic and roads maintenance engineer, McClure wasn't in this week when the Sunday World called to his home at Cladymilltown, south Armagh.

McClure's house is a short distance from the farmhouse once owned by Jim Mitchell - another part-time police officer who allowed his property near Glenanne to be used as a base by RUC men and soldiers with close links to the Mid-Ulster UVF.

They became later became known by investigators and journalists as the Glenanne Gang.

Loyalist mass murderer and security force asset Robin Jackson was also a frequent visitor to Mitchell's farm.

And various investigative reports into the activities of the Glenanne Gang concluded that bombs used in the Dublin and Monaghan atrocities - which claimed the lives of 33 people in one day - were manufactured on Mitchell's farm.

Local sources in Armagh this week say that as a young man, McClure fell under the influence of firebrand preacher the Reverend Ian Paisley.

He attended Markethill Secondary School and got to know the now deceased Jim Mitchell well. And again local sources say it was Mitchell - former B Special and later an RUC man - who persuaded McClure to join the RUC Reserve.

"Jim Mitchell was a psychopath, there's no doubt about that," said one source.

"His farm became a base for people interested in loyalist violence. But I'll tell you one thing about Mitchell - he never fired a shot himself."

Mitchell died 13 years ago aged 88.

Two weeks before the murders of the Reavey brothers, McClure - who was by then a trusted member of an RUC Special Patrol Group - is believed to have taken part in a co-ordinated double bomb attack.

Around tea-time on December 19 1975, Kay's Tavern - a family pub in Crowe Street Dundalk - was blown up in a no-warning UVF bomb attack. Three people lost their lives and another 20 were injured.

But a second gun and bomb attack also took place around three hours later just across the border at Silverbridge, Co Armagh. Three people died and another three were seriously injured.

The Silverbridge killers included McClure and Lily Shields, a housekeeper at Mitchell's farm. UDR corporal Robert McConnell and Billy McCaughey, an RUC man from Ballymena, also took part in the atrocity.

After three years, no one had been arrested. But following McCaughey's arrest in connection with an unrelated murder, information began to flow.

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Eugene pouring tea for our man Hugh

Eugene pouring tea for our man Hugh

Eugene pouring tea for our man Hugh

 

A team of 40 detectives - some specially drafted in from Belfast - began making arrests, including Laurence McClure and Lily Shields, who that night had posed as a courting couple.

Under caution, they both admitted limited involvement in the Donnelly's Bar attack. In a clearly rehearsed double act, the pair claimed they didn't know the detail of the attack, but admitted knowing it was illegal.

McClure admitted to detectives, that on the night before the attack, he attended a planning meting at Mitchell's farm along with other Glenanne Gang members, including Lily's real boyfriend, UDR corporal William McConnell, who was later shot dead by the IRA.

They faced charges of withholding information, but three years later, all charges were dropped.

But McClure and Shields were soon exposed as liars when, in later interviews, they contradicted themselves.

Lily Shields died a number of years ago.

During an interview with the Sunday World, we told her we believed she assisted the Reavey brothers' killers by driving a car on the night they died.

She said: "As God is my judge, I knew nothing about it. The first I heard of it was on the radio."

In his report to the Dublin government, Mr Justice Barron named McClure as one of the men who assembled the Dublin and Monaghan bombs. But in a TV documentary, McClure denied this.

And McClure is also believed to have led a Glenanne Gang attack on the Catholic-owned Rock Bar near Keady, Co Armagh, on June 5 1976.

It was six months to the day since the Kingsmills Massacre and McClure and his RUC mates were determined to wreak revenge. It was to be mass murder on a grand scale.

McClure and McCaughey were joined by fellow cops David Wilson and Ian Mitchell.

An HET report seen by the Sunday World revealed they all pulled on boiler suits over their RUC uniforms.

And after loading a bomb constructed by McClure into a yellow Mini car, they made their way in convoy with an in-service RUC car to the Rock Bar at Tassagh.

The bombers were aware that the front door of the pub remained permanently locked as a security measure. Access was gained by way of a former house next door and along a passage way.

Rock Bar owner Joe McGleenan was on holiday and his cousin was looking after the pub.

He had taken the added security measure of locking a connecting door in the passage way at closing time. His action undoubtedly saved the lives of many of the customers.

As McClure was lifting the bomb from the Mini, Mick McGrath, a 54-year-old bachelor, opened the pub door to leave.

McCaughey fired his weapon, shooting Mick several times. But the quick-thinking farmer scrambled under a parked car.

On reaching the pub door, McClure realised it was locked and placed the bomb on a step outside before lighting the fuse.

Sgt Billy McCaughey began firing wildly through the bar window. Every bullet failed to hit a target.

As the policemen made off in the RUC car, only the bomb detonator exploded.

Later that night, Constable Ian Mitchell returned to the pub to take statements from eye-witnesses about the terrorist crime he had helped commit.
It was another two years before the RUC top brass admitted it had a personnel problem in south Armagh.

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Eugene Reavey at home this week

Eugene Reavey at home this week

Eugene Reavey at home this week

Eventually, all of the RUC men involved in the Rock Bar bombing were rounded up, because despite being badly shot, Mick McGrath spotted the bombers were wearing RUC uniforms below their boiler suits.

By this time, McCaughey had been jailed for life for the murder of Catholic shopkeeper William Strathearn in Ahoghill.

Reserve Constable Laurence McClure was found guilty of possession of explosives and possession of a firearm with intent.

He was sentenced to two years in jail suspended for three years.

McCaughey - who died of cancer around 10 years ago - was given a further seven years on top of his life sentence.

And when we first quizzed McClure about his double life as a member of the RUC and the Glenanne Gang, he played down his role, claiming the bombs he made were never meant to go off. They were just to frighten people, he said.

McClure vehemently denied to us he had any part in the murder of the Reavey brothers. But he did admit to being a suspect in the case.

He said: "One detective told me, I'm gonna nail this on you McClure, but he never did."

On another occasion he flew into a rage before assaulting this reporter.

McClure was unaware his violet actions had been caught on camera.

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