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5th-Nov-2018 07:39 pm - Suspect in 1982 Hyde Park bombing arrested over earlier fatal blast

John Downey held in Ireland for questioning about 1972 Fermanagh explosion

Rory Carroll
The Guardian
5 Nov 2018

**See also this story on the Hyde Park bombing

John-Downey

John Downey outside the Old Bailey in 2014 (Photograph: Mark Thomas/Rex)

A man accused of murdering four soldiers in an IRA bomb attack in London’s Hyde Park in 1982 has been arrested on suspicion of murdering two other soldiers in a separate attack.

Members of the Garda Síochána and the Northern Ireland police service (PSNI) arrested John Downey, 66, on Monday night in Co Donegal, in the Republic of Ireland, in a joint operation. He is due to appear at the high court in Dublin on Tuesday and is expected to face extradition proceedings.

It is understood that Downey was arrested on suspicion of abetting an explosion and of murdering Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston, 32, and Private James Eames, 33, two soldiers from the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), in Co Fermanagh in Northern Ireland in 1972.

The arrest was a dramatic reversal of fortune for Downey. He walked free from the Old Bailey in February 2014 after his trial for the Hyde Park murders collapsed because of a secret letter from the British government that gave him a guarantee he would not face trial, a revelation that caused uproar.

hyde-park

The bodies of horses of the Household Cavalry lie in the road following the Hyde Park bomb attack (Corbis)

Downey’s lawyers argued that he should not face trial because he was one of 187 IRA suspects who were sent letters giving “a clear and unequivocal assurance” that they were no longer wanted by any police force in the UK. The British government gave the assurance in return for the IRA’s promise to decommission its arms as part of the Good Friday peace deal.

Downey had pleaded not guilty to the murder of four soldiers from the Household Cavalry who died in the blast on 20 July 1982, along with seven of their horses. The bomb had been concealed in a car and was detonated as the soldiers rode past on ceremonial duties.

Supporters and relatives of the four soldiers – Trooper Simon Tipper, 19, Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, 19, Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright, 36, and Lieutenant Anthony Daly, 23 – condemned Downey’s release and vowed to continue to fight to see justice done.

The victims’ families are pursuing a civil action against Downey, seeking financial compensation and pushing for a finding that he was liable for what happened.

Monday’s arrest, however, related to the deaths of the UDR soldiers a decade before the Hyde Park attack. Johnston and Eames died when an IRA bomb exploded in a car they were checking in Enniskillen on 25 August 1972. Their families have been kept informed of developments.

The PSNI reopened an investigation into the attack several months after the collapse of Old Bailey trial, leading to the joint operation with police in Donegal.

“Members of An Garda Síochána attached to the National Bureau of Criminal Intelligence arrested a 66-year-old male this evening, 5 November, in Donegal on foot of a European arrest warrant and is expected to appear before the high court in Dublin tomorrow 6 November 2018,” the Garda Síochána said in a statement.

The arrest will add pressure on authorities to pursue other alleged IRA men who were given so-called on-the-run (OTR) letters by Tony Blair’s government. Critics labelled them a “get out of jail free card”, but officials said they were part of an administrative scheme that merely informed recipients of statements of fact.

Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, welcomed Monday’s arrest.

2nd-May-2014 12:48 am - On the Run letters could be withdrawn, committee told
BBC
30 April 2014
**Video onsite



1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing in London

On the Run letters could be withdrawn if it is found they were sent in error, according to a key advisor to the attorney general.

Kevin McGinty was giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee about letters issued to republican paramilitary suspects.

Mr McGinty also said the On The Runs scheme was "not corrupt".

However, he said it was "damaging to the criminal justice system".

On The Runs is the term used to refer to people who are suspected of, but who have not been charged or convicted of paramilitary offences during the Troubles.

Controversy over the scheme emerged in February, when the trial of John Downey, the man charged with carrying out the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing in London, was halted.

The trial judge said the case could not continue because Mr Downey had received a government letter, mistakenly saying he was not wanted for questioning by police.

It later emerged that about 200 letters had been sent to republican paramilitary suspects.

On Wednesday, Mr McGinty, who was involved with the scheme, told the committee he believed letters that were mistakenly issued telling republicans they were not wanted by the police for questioning or arrest could be withdrawn.

Mr McGinty said other letters would not necessarily preclude recipients from prosecution.



The collapse of John Downey's trial last month sparked the On the Runs crisis

He also told the committee the Northern Ireland Office had amended the letter sent to Mr Downey to suggest that he was not wanted in the UK.

He said this had been done on advice that the appropriate checks had been made by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) but accepted that the PSNI was not informed that the wording was changed by the Northern Ireland Office.

Mr McGinty insisted that the On the Runs scheme was lawful, but said it was accepted at the time that it would "damage the criminal justice system".

"I am not going to describe it as corrupt", Mr McGinty said.

The scheme, according to Mr McGinty, began at a time in the peace negotiations when Sinn Féin was being "particularly difficult".

Earlier, former chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan told the committee that he was aware of letters being considered but not aware of them "actually going out".

Asked whether people in other circumstances could ring up the police and ask if they were wanted, Sir Ronnie claimed the political context at the time, which had also seen the early release of paramilitary prisoners, meant that a "completely normal situation" did not apply.

But he added: "I certainly would never have been engaged in a process that would have allowed anyone to escape justice or evade justice."

Sir Ronnie was also adamant no political pressure was exerted on him to ensure certain individuals were not pursued.
5th-Jun-2013 08:15 am - Man charged with murder of four in Hyde Park bombing
By Margaret Davis
Irish News
23 May 2013



Devastation: Horses lie dead in the road (Image: Mirror.co.uk)

A 61-YEAR-OLD Donegal man appeared in court yesterday charged with the murder of four British soldiers in the IRA Hyde Park bombing of 1982.

John Anthony Downey, who is thought to be originally from Co Cavan, was at Westminster Magistrates Court to face four counts of murder and an explosives charge.

He is accused of being responsible for a nail bomb left in a car in South Carriage Drive, west London.

The bomb killed four members of the Royal Household Cavalry as they travelled from their barracks to Buckingham Palace.

Mr Downey, a member of Sinn Fein and a so-called on the run (OTR), was arrested at Gatwick Airport on Sunday.

British police had wanted to question him about the attack for decades.

Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly yesterday called for his immediate release.

During the short hearing, Mr Downey spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address.

He is charged with murdering Roy John Bright, Dennis Richard Anthony Daly, Simon Andrew Tipper and Geoffrey Vernon Young.

Seven horses were also killed and several police officers and civilians injured in the blast.

A second explosion in a Re-gent's Park bandstand on the same day killed seven British army bandsmen.

Mr Downey will appear at the Old Bailey tomorrow.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, anyone convicted of a paramilitary offence that took place before April 15 1998 can request to be transferred to a prison in Northern Ireland and then apply to be released after serving two years in custody.

Mr Kelly said yesterday that Mr Downey was a "long-time supporter of the peace process" and the decision to charge him was "vindictive, unnecessary and unhelpful".

"Clearly if John Downey had been arrested and convicted previously he would have been released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement," Mr Kelly said.

"As part of the Weston Park negotiation the British government committed to resolving the position of OTRs.

"John Downey received a letter from the NIO in 2007 stating that he was not wanted by the PSNI or any British police force.

"Despite travelling to England on many occasions, now, six years on he finds himself before the courts on these historic charges."

Unionist politicians hit out at Mr Kelly's comments.

Ulster Unionist assembly member Danny Kinahan, who was victim Anthony Daly's best man and attended his funeral, said everyone "must be subject to the rule of law".

"It may be politically inconvenient or embarrassing for Sinn Fein when certain individuals are arrested and/or charged with offences but that does not mean that justice should be prevented from being done," he said.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said all crimes, no matter when they were committed, must be investigated.

"There can be no mitigation for claims that someone is 'a supporter of the peace process', 'a good republican' or any other phrase which Sinn Fein may care to use," he said.

In 1987 electrician Gilbert 'Danny' McNamee, of Crossma-glen in Co Armagh, was jailed for 25 years for making the Hyde Park bomb.

He served 12 years before being freed under the Good Friday Agreement and in 1998 his conviction was quashed at the High Court.

Although his conviction was deemed unsafe, the three judges found it did not follow he was innocent of the crime.
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