Kelly family renew call for independent inquiry

William Graham, Irish News March 16 2004

The family of a Catholic councillor whose murder has remained unsolved for almost 30 years last night (Monday) spoke of their concerns at the direction of the PSNI's re-investigation of the killing.

Patsy Kelly (33), a father-of-four who died without knowing that his wife was pregnant with their fifth child, was murdered outside the Co Tyrone village of Trillick on July 24 1974.

An independent nationalist member of Omagh District Council, he was shot at the side of a remote road as he drove home from the pub he managed at around midnight.

A new inquiry into his death was launched last July against a background of claims that Mr Kelly was murdered by a rogue UDR patrol, and that the RUC botched the original inquiry and that security forces colluded to keep the killers out of jail.

Mr Kelly's family have refused to cooperate with the inquiry team, led by Detective Superintendent Andrew Hunter, citing a breakdown of trust over the way the investigation was publicly launched.

A judicial review action brought by the family, seeking to compel the PSNI to allow an external police force to investigate the murder, is currently adjourned.

In a statement, the family have detailed a "number of serious concerns" with the inquiry.

"We are being persistently asked by Mr Hunter's team to meet him without our solicitor being present. We would like an explanation why such a meeting is being sought," they said.

They also question the "real purpose of this re-investigation".

"Is it to find the perpetrators of both the murder and of the subsequent cover-ups?" they asked.

Referring to a meeting with Mr Hunter last July, prior to the media launch of the investigation – which took place without their knowledge, – the family said: "Why have we been treated in such a shabby way? A prime example has been the way in which our efforts to build up a relationship of trust with the Hunter team were thrown back in our faces after what we thought was a reasonably open meeting with him."

With Chief Constable Hugh Orde on record as saying that it was "impossible to reinvestigate murders going back over 30 years because the evidential trails had inevitably gone cold", the family also query the reason for starting a fresh inquiry.

They claim that David Jordan, a former UDR soldier who claimed to have been present during Mr Kelly's murder, "provided important evidence about the identity of the perpetrators before his own death in suspicious circumstances in 2001".

"This evidence has not to our knowledge been properly followed up on," they said.

"A fresh postmortem of Mr Jordan's body is, therefore, required to allay fears and suspicions.

"Mr Orde has also stated that the PSNI does not have the resources to carry out re-investigations into past murders.

"If this is the case, why was the re-investigation into Patsy Kelly's murder recommenced with such haste in 2002 after previous and repeated refusals?

"We have never been given any explanation for the change of heart. We simply don't know, but believe that we have the right to know.

"That is still being denied to us as the PSNI continues to challenge our efforts in the High Court to bring about a re-investigation by an outside police force. So much for lack of resources," the family added.

The family also repeat their assertion that they "do not seek to humiliate the PSNI".

"We asked for honesty and transparency in our meeting with Mr Hunter at the beginning of the current re-investigation so that we as a family and the public at large could have confidence in its bona fides," they said.

"That was not forthcoming and we are left deeply cynical about the real agenda of what is going on.

"We repeat our belief that there needs to be a proper re-investigation by an outside police force.

We will pursue the matter until we achieve that," they added.



Patrick Kelly locked up the Corner Bar – now known as Packie's – on Trillick's Main Street at around midnight on Wednesday July 24 1974 and got into his white Mazda 1800.

He was carrying the cash box with the night's takings and was anxious to get it home safely.

Mr Kelly (33) knew his wife Teresa would be waiting for him at their home at Golan, about two miles from the pub, where their four children – Geraldine, Barry, Fearghal and Oonagh – would be asleep.

That day's edition of the Irish News had reported that the Tyrone Civil Rights Association said that good community relations and peace depended on "halting the bullies who are at present provoking and terrorising innocent people".

The UDR platoon in Trillick was among those it singled out for criticism.

Tensions were high in that part of Co Tyrone at the time. A number of soldiers had been killed in the area in previous months, including a 22-year-old UDR soldier called Robert Jameson who was shot by the IRA outside Trillick on January 17 1974.

The next day gunmen opened fire on the Corner Bar, injuring three customers. The pub's Catholic owner sold the premises a short time later and left the area.

A few weeks before leaving the bar for the final time, Mr Kelly had been stopped at a UDR checkpoint at an "unusual place" on his way home.

Mr Kelly, who was elected to Omagh District Council as an independent nationalist in 1973, told his wife the checkpoint had been manned by a "few local faces".

It was set up on the Badoney Road, about a mile from his home, at a remote wooded spot known locally as McCaughey's Lane.

He said this was odd because it was not on a junction and the Badoney Road did not really lead anywhere.

Because he regularly carried money home with him and because of the paramilitary activity in the area, Mrs Kelly said her husband had vowed that he would "not be stopping for anyone unless they were in uniform".

That night, Mr Kelly's car was parked facing away from Trillick Main Street, so instead of driving home along Effernan Road he took a short-cut directly on to Badoney Road.

Less than 24 hours later, bloodstains, hair, buttons and cartridge cases were found at the roadside at McCaughey's Lane and Mr Kelly had disappeared, along with his car.

A massive search for the missing councillor started. In the following days, up to 2,000 people assisted police and army searchers using helicopters and tracker dogs to scour the area for Mr Kelly and his car.

On Thursday July 25 the car was found burned out in a laneway beside the Colebrooke River, near Brookeborough in Co Fermanagh, and the Tyrone County GAA board asked its members to help in the search.

The search was officially called off on August 5 and the Mid-Ulster Provisional IRA claimed it had "positive evidence" that UDR men were involved in Mr Kelly's disappearance.

At this time, the Irish News labelled the case "one of the most puzzling to emerge for some time".

Still uncertain as to what had happened to her husband, Mrs Kelly discovered she was pregnant. Then, on Saturday August 10, came the discovery she had been dreading.

Dr A Small, from Brookeborough, was fishing on Lough Eyes in Co Fermanagh, near Lisbellaw. The lough, a favourite spot with angling enthusiasts, is about three miles from where Mr Kelly's car had been found and around 10 miles, through remote, undulating countryside, from his home.

The doctor's line snagged on something – he had hooked Mr Kelly's clothing.

Mr Kelly's body was submerged in about five feet of water, 10 feet from the shore. Two 56lb agricultural weights had been tied to his body with nylon rope. He had been shot four times, and died without knowing his wife was pregnant with their fifth child.


Patsy Kelly