DUP founder allowed car to be used in murder of innocent publican Patsy Kelly
Oliver Gibson handed his vehicle over to two other UDR soldiers who also doubled as ruthless UVF killers
A founder member of the DUP who also served in the Northern Ireland Assembly allowed his car to be used in the murder of innocent Catholic publican Patsy Kelly, the Sunday Worldhas been told.
The matter came to light this week after a damning Police Ombudsman’s report revealed the finger of suspicion fell on UDR officer Oliver Gibson within hours of Mr Kelly going missing on July 24, 1974.
We have been told that the hardline unionist politician – who died five years ago aged 84 – handed his vehicle over to two other UDR soldiers who also doubled as ruthless UVF killers and the vehicle was found burnt out the following day.
One of the killers was Wesley Somerville, who died a year later when his bomb prematurely exploded in the infamous Miami Showband Massacre.
The other was Wesley’s brother John, who shot singer and musician Fran O’Toole 22 times in the face before fleeing the scene.
He died in 2015.
But their accomplice in the notorious killing of nationalist councillor Mr Kelly – Oliver Gibson – would himself become a politician, later sitting in the same council chamber as the man he helped murder.
We can today reveal for the first time that the Somerville brothers argued about how to end 35-year-old Patsy Kelly’s life, before shooting him dead.
“They rowed about whether to shoot Mr Kelly or strangle him. In the end they shot him,” a loyalist source told us.
Yesterday, Denise Mullen – whose Catholic father was gunned down by UVF gunmen at their family home outside the Moy in Co Tyrone in 1975 – said the Ombudsman’s report into the investigation which took place after Mr Kelly was murdered makes grim reading.
“Here we have another case where UDR soldiers are implicated. Perhaps the DUP politicians who heaped praise on Oliver Gibson when he died should review their statements,” she said.
Father-of-five Patsy Kelly was on his way home from work in the Corner Bar, Trillick, when he was abducted at what is believed to have been a bogus checkpoint manned by serving soldiers a mile outside the village.
Cartridge cases and bloodstains were found at the scene as local people desperately searched in vain to find Mr Kelly.
A month later, on August 10, 1974, his body was found floating in Lough Erne near the Fermanagh village of Tempo.
It later emerged that two 56lbs weights had been used to keep his body below the surface.
Oliver Gibson’s car was found burnt out the day after Patsy Kelly’s disappearance. Hours before, Gibson had reported the vehicle stolen.
Members of the Kelly family are convinced a number of UDR soldiers were involved in the murder of their loved one.
And in her report this week, Ombudsman Marie Anderson confirmed the RUC Special Branch in Fermanagh reported that their CID colleagues suspected UDR involvement in the killing.
The RUC also revealed that a man known by the cipher UDR member 20 – now known to refer to Oliver Gibson – was a suspect.
And that relevant military documentation relating to him on the day Mr Kelly disappeared was missing.
Ms Anderson’s report also said: “There were also allegations that UDR duty sheets for the night of Mr Kelly’s abduction had been destroyed.”
The Ombudsman’s report revealed that the RUC Special Branch was aware of significant UVF activity in the area around the time of Mr Kelly’s murder.
In 1999, the finger of suspicion was again pointed at Oliver Gibson when David Jordan – a former UDR soldier who had served alongside Gibson – implicated himself and Gibson in the Patsy Kelly killing.
From the townland of Curr near Beragh, Jordan was also an alcoholic who consumed vast amounts of dark rum.
One night he was drinking in the company of a former police officer and blurted out details of his and Gibson’s involvement in the murder.
Jordan was never formally interviewed about what he had said and shortly afterwards was knocked down and killed while walking home from the pub.
Born in Beragh, Co Tyrone, in 1934, Gibson was a fundamentalist Protestant. In the 1950s, he attended Queen’s University in Belfast and he later became a teacher.
He also ran a viable market garden on land behind his home in Beragh.
The Rev Ian Paisley had family connections near Gibson’s home village and Gibson became a dedicated follower of the fire-and-brimstone preacher, helping found Paisley’s hardline DUP.
Gibson was the vice-principal of Omagh High School and shortly after the outbreak of the Troubles, he joined the Ulster Defence Regiment, rising to the rank of lieutenant.
But eyebrows were raised among parents when it emerged, shortly after then PM Margaret Thatcher signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement – giving the Irish Republic a say in Northern Irish affairs for the first time – that Gibson had begun “drilling” classes for male pupils in the school gym.
But Gibson was also a chronic alcoholic who went on sporadic booze binges during which he sometimes set up one-man vehicle checkpoints, wearing his UDR uniform and carrying his service revolver.
On one occasion he came within minutes of losing his life when, the worse for wear, he began stopping cars at a crossroad junction outside the strongly republican town of Carrickmore. A major RUC operation swung into action immediately.
Certain tragedy was averted when a quick-thinking RUC officer contacted Gibson’s life-long friend and neighbour, Paddy Joe McClean, asking for his help.
Teetotal Catholic McClean had no hesitation in walking up to the UDR officer to demand he hand over his weapon.
McClean, who died recently, then escorted his friend to a hospital facility for alcoholics.
In 2003, it emerged Gibson, who was married with a grown-up family, was conducting a clandestine love affair with a woman half his age.
He quit his family home at Sixmilecross and moved in to live with the then 35-year-old in her house at Ballybogey, Co Antrim.
Every summer he returned to Sixmilecross to attend Orange parades, although his presence made more straight-laced members uneasy.
Oliver Gibson died on April 27, 2018.
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