Statement from the family of Louis Leonard
Family statement | 17 December 2012
It's 40 years since Louis was shot dead in his butchers shop in Derrylyn. There are still questions surrounding his death that have not been answered and probably never will be. The HET report does however provide new and significant information that we were unaware of. The HET have concluded that Louis was almost certainly shot dead in his shop by two loyalists from the Rathcoole area of Belfast-who are referred to as suspects A and B throughout the report. Both men were living and working in Fermanagh. One was a customs officer. Louis, unbeknownst to his family and many of his friends, was a member of the IRA. Former senior RUC officers in this area have told the HET that they themselves were unaware of this. But there is evidence that some within both RUC SB and the British Army were aware of this. It is our strong belief, though the HET have found no proof of this, that the two Belfast loyalists who carried out the assassination were provided with information about Louis by members of the UDR in this area. There is evidence that a number of UDR members in the Fermanagh and Tyrone area at the time were loyalist paramilitaries. In our view it would be absurd to suggest that two loyalists from outside the county randomly targeted a local man because he was Catholic. This was the first loyalist murder in county Fermanagh and it is clear to us that he was targeted.
Following the murder we have discovered a shocking pattern of failures to follow up even the most basic investigative practices by the RUC.
Two days after Louis’ murder suspect A returned a hire car to Avis car hire at Aldergrove airport. Just two weeks before another vehicle had been hired at this very same desk and was used in the car bombing of Sackville Place in Dublin in which two people died. When suspect A returned the car on December 18 four bullets were found in the car. This was reported to the RUC and Special Branch entered this information onto the intelligence system that same day. Two other items of intelligence refer to suspect A at this time-late 1972. One said that this Rathcoole UDA man was "acting lieutenant colonel for Fermanagh and Tyrone" ...he was of course living here in the county... and the second intelligence report claimed that he was organising a UDA team to carry out attacks. This was far from the only intelligence about this man.
In April 1973, four months after the murder, RUC HQ sent a report to a senior RUC officer in Fermanagh naming two men as suspects for Louis’ murder – Suspects A and B referred to above. He also learned in April 1973 that a black Ford Cortina COI 8037 had been hired by Suspect A from Avis, Aldergrove Airport on 15th December 1972, which had been returned with 301 miles on the clock and ammunition had been found in the car. The intelligence provided also suggested that both men had travelled from Belfast to Derrylin to carry out the murder on behalf of Fermanagh UVF (p.24).
In response to this report from Headquarters this officer said,
‘These men were the first Protestants charged in this area with offences having political motivation and I am of the opinion that someone realising the religion of both these persons, became suspicious and put their names forward’. I interviewed these men with negative result and I am of the opinion that someone realising the religion of both these persons became suspicious and put their names forward. “(p.20).
In fact the HET discovered that neither suspect was interviewed. At one stage this uniformed officer got into a car with the two suspects outside a courthouse but was told to get out again by their solicitor.
The HET describes this failure to link up the suspect and car hired from Avis with the eyewitness statements and anonymous information received ‘as a significant missed opportunity’ (p.34). Both suspect A and B were on bail charged with firearms and robbery offences at this time. Some of the offences had been committed in Fermanagh.
In addition to the intelligence received in 1972 and in April 73 further reports came in.
In May 1973 a Detective Inspector in Newtownabbey alerted the RUC in Fermanagh to suspect A and offered any assistance regarding the ‘butcher murder’ (p.35)
In December 1973 intelligence was received that Suspect A was involved in Louis’ murder.
In September 1974 intelligence was received that Suspects A and B were involved in Louis’ murder.
In 1981 intelligence was received that Suspects A, B and a further suspect C, were involved in Louis’ murder (p.24).
Neither suspect A or B were ever arrested and questioned about the murder of Louis Leonard. The HET has described both men as " high priority suspects for Louis’ murder" (p.30) and goes on to confirm that "...there were reasonable grounds to arrest and interview suspects A and B but this was never done" (p.36) Further intelligence reports claim that the two went on to murder Jim Murphy near Derrylyn in April 1974. It is reasonable to speculate that the murder of Jim Murphy, himself a friend of Louis’ would have been prevented if even the most basic of investigations had taken place into Louis’ murder.
This HET report has answered some but not all of the questions posed by the family over all these years. It is self-evident that two strangers - two loyalists from Belfast - did not arrive of their own accord at a butchers shop in the village of Derrylyn late on the evening of December 15 1972 with the intention of murdering a man simply because ‘any Catholic would do’. Louis was targeted. In reference to the subsequent investigation the HET talks of ‘mistakes,’ ‘missed opportunities’ and ‘significant failings’. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary the investigating officer refused to follow the evidence of the involvement of suspects A and B and instead suggested in a report to HQ that Louis may have been murdered "as he may have been connected to the Provisional IRA or subsidiary activities and he was not complying with instructions of his command."
The complete failure to investigate the loyalist murder of Louis Leonard is a shocking indictment of the attitude of senior RUC officers and betrays a deep seated and systemic sectarianism within the force. It is the view of the family and it is a view one which the PFC shares, that the pattern of failures in this investigation amounts to collusive behaviour by the RUC as an organisation.
RUC Headquarters, Special Branch, CID and senior officers in charge of the investigation in Fermanagh were all aware that suspects a and B were high priority suspects yet nothing was done.
Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens stated that collusion is evidenced in many ways, ranging from "wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, through to the extremes of agents being involved in murder."
Judge Peter Cory noted that the verb ‘to collude’ is synonymous with the verbs: to conspire; to connive; to collaborate; to plot, and to scheme. He further stated: "The verb connive is defined as to deliberately ignore; to overlook; to disregard; to pass over; to take no notice of; to turn a blind eye; to wink; to excuse; to condone; to look the other way; to let something ride..."
We submit that the above has a particular relevance to this case. The RUC at the very least turned a blind eye and ignored the actions of loyalists involved in the murder of Louis Leonard. Indeed it is highly likely that the targeting of Louis was itself the result of collusion between those members of the security forces who regarded him as an active republican and those who carried out the murder.