revealed  | 

Two UFF gunmen in Sean Graham massacre were RUC Special Branch agents

The 30th anniversary of the atrocity, in which five people were killed and seven seriously wounded, was this week

Sean Graham bookies was the scene of one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles 30 years ago

By Hugh Jordan

At least two of the UFF killers involved in the Sean Graham’s Bookies Shop Massacre were RUC Special Branch agents, the Sunday World has been told.

The lead gunman – who used an AK47-style assault rifle to mow down innocent punters placing their bets – has never even been questioned by police about his role in the slaughter.

On February 5, 1992, five Catholics were killed and another seven seriously wounded, when two loyalist gunmen entered Sean Graham’s bookmakers on Belfast’s Ormeau Road and opened fire.

And this Tuesday – three days after the 30th anniversary of the horror atrocity – Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson will deliver her report into what happened.

Yesterday, Billy McManus – who lost his dad Billy in the blood-bath attack and who arrived on the scene seconds later – said his family want to know the truth.

Justice campaigner Billy McManus whose father was murdered by loyalist gunmen in the Sean Graham bookies massacre, says he holds the British government 90 per cent responsible for the killing.

Speaking at an event to remember the victims at the spot where they died, Billy McManus told the Sunday World: “This is a huge day for everyone. It’s sometimes difficult to believe 30 years have passed since this happened.

“Obviously I’m feeling a bit apprehensive, but I’m still looking forward to hearing what the Ombudsman has to say.”

The full identity of the UFF team who carried out the Sean Graham’s Bookies Shop Massacre is known to the Sunday World.

Shot dead: Jack Duffin, Peter Magee, William McManus, James Kennedy and Christy Doherty

Using a Czech VZ 58 assault rifle – the lead UFF gunman and his pistol wielding accomplice, claimed the lives of five Catholics and badly injured another seven.

The betting shop was a hub and a man’s meeting place for the local community. And at 2.25pm on February 5, it was packed with punters keen to place their bets.

“It was like shooting fish in a barrel.” an eye-witness told the Sunday World at the time.

“There was no escape route. Those poor people were just mowed down.”

For many years, the local Catholic community believed – wrongly as it turned out – that the notorious loyalists Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder were the gunmen.

Hundreds of people arrived to supporthe families mark the 30th anniversary of the Sean Graham bookmakers atrocity

That belief was compounded two years later, when the IRA shot both men dead 700 yards away.

As Bratty and Elder lay mortally wounded on the Ormeau Road, an IRA gunman stood over them to deliver a ‘coup de gras’, shooting both of them several times in the head.

The Mafia-style execution happened on July 31, 1994, just weeks before the IRA called its historic ceasefire.

But today, the Sunday World can reveal, that the five-time loyalist killer, who led the UFF attack on the Ormeau Road bookies shop, is currently living in continental Europe.

Now in his 60s, he left after serving a lengthy sentence for unrelated loyalist terror offences.

Suspected by a number of leading ex-loyalists of being a highly-placed RUC Special Branch agent, he is believed to have been personally responsible for up to 10 loyalist murders.

But it is believed he also played a major role in taking down the notorious ‘C Coy’ led by self-styled UFF Brigadier Johnny Adair, who was later convicted of directing terrorism.

The Sunday World has been told the killer lives a ‘quiet but comfortable life’ abroad.

Families mark the 30th anniversary of the Sean Graham bookmakers atrocity

Loyalist sources remain convinced that before agreeing to take part in the bookies shop attack, the killer was given a ‘get out of jail free’ card by the RUC Special Branch.

And it is expected Tuesday’s Ombudsman’s report may focus directly on this aspect of the investigation.

Originally from east Belfast, as a teenager the killer joined the Red Hand Commando. The loyalist terror group had a presence in the area and on the Braniel estate.

But it soon became clear he was determined to use his links to loyalist paramilitary groups simply to further his own criminal career. And he later met up with UFF loyalists from Sydenham.

And together they developed a modis operandi as commercial burglars.

The Ormeau Road killer was also a known associate of career criminal Vernon Sydney Baillie, who was shot dead by the Red Hand Commandos, outside his home at Johnston Park, Carrowdore, Co.Down in September, 1993.

Later the hard line loyalist group issued a statement claiming Baillie as a member, but adding it had executed him because he was a police informant.

Two years ago, the Sunday World revealed Vernon Baillie had been executed by Red Hand leader Frankie Curry.

A nephew of UVF founder Gusty Spence, Curry was later shot dead during a loyalist dispute.

Despite assertions that it is an entirely separate organisation, the Red Hand Commando is seen by the security forces as simply an off-shoot of the UVF.

At the time of his death, it was suggested Baillie had been involved in the sale and distribution of drugs, but he had refused to share the profits with his loyalist cohorts.

It is believed that it was in the late ’80s that the future Ormeau Road killer was recruited by the RUC Special Branch.

“For most of his adult life, this man was basically a burglar, who was also involved in cigarette and tobacco heists.

“He made a reasonable living at it, but once he was recruited as a Special Branch agent, things changed. Murder was added to his CV.

“He was mainly concerned with taking out other loyalists,” said a source.

“When he was shooting that rifle in Sean Graham’s bookies shop, he knew he was never going to jail for it.”

Emergency services at the scene of terror attack

There is no doubt the UFF decision to attack a bookmakers packed with Catholic customers came after the IRA killed eight Protestant workmen at Teebane Crossroads in Co. Tyrone, a month before.

The slaughter of innocents at Teebane and at the Ormeau Road Bookies, remain two of the most shocking tit-for-tat mass murder incidents of the entire Troubles.

The south Belfast bookies shop was planned by the South Belfast section of the UFF led by the notorious Alex Kerr, who later admitted being an MI5 agent.

But outside help also came in the form of ammunition supplied by west Belfast loyalists. And the main killer and an assault rifle came from east Belfast.

Between them the UFF murder gang pumped nearly 50 bullets into their terrified and screaming victims. Twelve of the 15 men present in the shop were hit.

Four died at the scene and 15 year-old James Kennedy – the youngest of the victims – was dead on arrival at hospital.

When the shooting stopped, one of the UFF men shouted: “That’s for Teebane!” before fleeing.

Today's Headlines

More Irish Crime

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos