horror crime | 

Garfield Gilmour cased the murder scene twice before killing three Quinn brothers in Co Antrim

Garfield Gilmour

Garfield Gilmour

Hugh Jordan

Quinn brothers' killer Garfield Gilmour - found dead in his home last week - cased the murder scene twice days before the boys died.

The Quinn children - Jason (8), Mark (9), and Richard (10) - were incinerated in the bedroom of their Ballymoney home in the early hours of July 12, 1998.

As flames engulfed the property, their mum Chrissie, her friend Christina Archibald and her partner Raymond Craig all managed to scramble clear, but tragically the boys were burned to death.

News of the atrocity - which happened as police prepared to face down angry Orangemen in a tense stand-off at Drumcree near Portadown - sent shockwaves around the world.

Gilmour - who served a 14-year stretch in prison - was the only person convicted of the horror crime.

It was Gilmour who drove the UVF murder gang to the Quinn home on Ballymoney's Carnany estate. He waited as his cohorts lobbed a petrol bomb through the living room window.

And as the house exploded in a ball of fire, Gilmour was spotted calmly driving the child killers out of the estate.

But the Sunday World can today reveal that three days before the horror attack, Gilmour called to a neighbour's house, where he asked to borrow nappies.

Pretending he was the broke father of a child in need, Gilmour also pleaded with the young couple living there to supply him with other baby items.

But Gilmour's begging was a simply a ruse to allow his UVF mates to get a good look at the Quinn family home.

As Gilmour stood chatting to Chrissie Quinn's neighbour, UVF men Raymond Parke and Johnny McKay remained in his Vauxhall Astra car, scouring every inch of the Quinn property.

The Quinn brothers (Left to Right) Jason, Mark and Richard, who lost their lives on the 12th July 1998

The Quinn brothers (Left to Right) Jason, Mark and Richard, who lost their lives on the 12th July 1998

On the evening of July 11 - as a crowd including the Quinn boys gathered around a bonfire - Gilmour and his mates were again seen trawling the Carnany estate.

Gilmour was determined his attack would go according to plan.

Shortly after 4am the petrol bomb exploded and within seconds, thick black smoke and flames began streaming from the Quinn home.

A neighbour raced across the road and spoke to one of the boys who was standing at an upstairs window. "It's getting very hot," he told her.

The woman urged the child to move towards the stairs, but he said he couldn't see them. At that a fireball engulfed the staircase.

Chrissie and the boys had only moved in five days before the deadly attack.

Firefighters arrived within minutes and two of them entered the blazing building. Another two followed them. Minutes later, a fireman appeared carrying the body of one of the boys. He handed it to a paramedic.

A short time later the bodies of the other two boys were brought out.

News of the triple murders made headlines around the world and messages of condolence arrived from the Pope and President Clinton.

The usual suspects were arrested. But only one man faced charges.

At his trial the following year, Thomas Robert Garfield Gilmour, from Finvoy Road, Ballymoney, was charged with three counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and arson.

During interviews with police, Gilmour named all those who were in his car on the night of the attack, but claimed he never knew anything about a petrol-bomb attack.

He said he knew all his friends were in the UVF, but he denied being a member.

Lord Justic McCollum didn't believe him. And before handing him three life sentences, branded him a "resourceful liar".

The judge said he suspected him of being the ring leader of the enterprise.

Appeal Court Judges later reduced the Gilmour's conviction to manslaughter and he spent 14 years behind bars.

Gilmour wasn't typical of UVF recruits at that time, attending the local grammar school and playing with the prestigious Ballymoney Rugby Club.

On his release, the Sunday World photographed Gilmour at a caravan park near Portrush, where he worked as a gardener/handyman.

Some years ago, Raymond Parke was found drowned in a river and Johnny McKay was badly burned when hot fat from a chip pan spilled over him.

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