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'Ugly rumours' Loyalist tried to 'persuade' writer that petrol bomb fire which killed Quinn brothers started inside home

Susan McKay claims the loyalist victims campaigner made the false claim in the immediate aftermath of the UVF petrol bomb killings of the Quinn brothers

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Jason, Mark and Richard Quinn died in the attack, while Lee (back), who was not in the house at the time, survived

Jason, Mark and Richard Quinn died in the attack, while Lee (back), who was not in the house at the time, survived

Jason, Mark and Richard Quinn died in the attack, while Lee (back), who was not in the house at the time, survived

Willie Frazer tried to "persuade" a journalist that the sickening sectarian murders of three children had been caused by a fire started inside their own home, a new book has claimed.

Award-winning writer Susan McKay claims the Loyalist victims campaigner, who died in 2019, made the false claim in the immediate aftermath of the UVF petrol bomb killings of the Quinn brothers.

The Co Antrim schoolboys were burned to death in 1998 in their Ballymoney home in a savage sectarian attack which caused revulsion around the world.

The critically acclaimed writer told how some of those she spoke to, including Frazer, had been "retailing ugly rumours" in the hours after the devastating triple murder.

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Willie Frazer. Photo: Pacemaker Press

Willie Frazer. Photo: Pacemaker Press

Willie Frazer. Photo: Pacemaker Press

She wrote: "I was writing Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People at the time of the atrocity, staying at my parents' house in Derry, and spending a lot of time at Drumcree."

"The Orangemen I was meeting there denied their protest had anything to do with a wave of anti-Catholic violence across Northern Ireland.

"Shocked and furious, I decided to go to Portadown and hear what the Orangemen were saying. My daughters were little, like the Quinn children.

"They were retailing ugly rumours. Willie Frazer tried to persuade me that the fire had been lit from the inside of the house. He had it on good authority, he assured me. Later, after the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) connection was confirmed, Bingham said it had been 'wrong to infer' that the Orange Order was involved."

Last year Frazer was named in a BBC documentary as a key distributor of Ulster Resistance weapons used by loyalist death squads in up to 70 murders.

He passed away in 2019 at the age of 58. Up until his death he had been campaigning for victims of IRA violence.

McKay's new book, a follow on from her 2000-published Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People, also includes a heartbreaking interview with the boys' mum Chrissie Quinn.

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She escaped the July 12th blaze which claimed the lives of her three sons and told of the impact their deaths had on her and surviving son Lee, who was not in the house on the night of the attack.

"'Lee was 13 two weeks after the fire,' said Chrissie. 'He's reclusive now. He's just on his Xbox constantly. The boys always had a console that they'd play on together. Lee just went into himself after the fire. He just went quiet. I never slept for weeks. I was a shell.

"We were there for each other but only in the physical sense. We weren't capable. I used to use his brothers' names to him by accident and then I'd see the shock on his face.'"

She said she was certain that the attack that killed her boys was sectarian and that she and her sons were deliberately targeted. Chrissie also revealed how her mother's home had been petrol bombed by the same gang the night before the murders.

"They had been at the Eleventh Night bonfire earlier on the night they were killed. One of the men that did it was at the same bonfire.

"My mum's house had been petrol-bombed the night before by the same gang that burned my house."

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Just one person, getaway driver Garfield Gilmour, was convicted over the killings.

Gilmour was originally convicted of murder but the charge was dropped to manslaughter on appeal. He was sentenced to 14 years behind bars in 2000.

In November 2019, the body of one of those men, Raymond Parke, was taken from the River Bann.

Chrissie's partner Davey Joyce, dad to little Jason, tells Susan: "We don't believe it was his conscience. None of them had any remorse. We drove to the Bann after we heard the news. It was misty, like it was trying to clean itself of the garbage that was in it."

Chrissie said it brought her no comfort that Parke was dead, though she was not sorry.

"I would have liked justice. I would have liked to see the police go after them," she said.

The couple believe there was at least one witness who saw all of the men in the car when Gilmour drove them back to the scene, apparently to watch as firefighters tackled the blaze.

The local council demolished the burned-out house in the Carnany estate 1999, and created a playpark for children on the site.

Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground is published by Blackstaff Press along with a reissue of Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People, also by Susan McKay.

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