Call for new probe into Gilford murders

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The killing of two Catholic men, including a Bleary pensioner, which was blamed on the killers of the Miami Showband may have been carried out by the IRA, the family of one of the victims has revealed.

James Joseph Toland (78), a father of 12 from Bleary, and James ‘Jimmy’ Marks (42) from Portadown were killed by masked gunmen 40 years ago.

Mr Toland died instantly after being shot in the head. Mr Marks was critically hurt after also being shot in the head and back. Despite extensive injuries, he survived for almost 160 days before dying in Craigavon hospital on January 7, 1976.

He had been the driver of a minibus carrying eight passengers home from bingo in Banbridge when his red and white Ford Custom minibus was ambushed near Gilford at 11.20pm on Friday August 1, 1975.

Three female passengers suffered gunshot wounds that left them seriously injured.

The shooting took place less than 48 hours after three members of the Miami Showband were murdered by a UVF gang. The band’s minibus had been stopped by a bogus army patrol after a gig in Banbridge.

Relatives of Mr Marks have called for an investigation to establish if he was shot by the IRA in an attack meant for an RUC vehicle the day after the Miami Showband massacre.

The family fear that police knew an attack was being planned by republicans but failed to act.

Mr Marks’ family have revealed that a Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report points the finger at the IRA.

The report, concluded in 2011, revealed to the family for the first time ballistic records which showed that a rifle used in Mr Marks’ murder was linked to the IRA killing of two female UDR members while a second weapon was found in the possession of two IRA men in Lurgan in 1979. It was found that 11 suspects, all Catholic, were arrested during the RUC investigation.

The HET report also exposed serious shortcomings in the RUC inquiry, according to the Irish News.

Martina Marks, whose elderly father Michael has lobbied for years to uncover the truth behind his brother’s murder, says the family now want a ‘properly resourced’ investigation.

She said the family had been left in a ‘kind of limbo’ by the authorities and was struggling to find ways to push the case forward. Ms Marks also criticised the RUC probe as being ‘very shabby’, saying relatives were beginning to question whether police had prior knowledge of IRA plans to carry out the attack.

“We’re starting to think that an informer was involved and that the RUC knew what was happening,” she said, also questioning why the RUC minibus had left Gilford early and why it took weeks for the investigation to get off the ground. “We think it was republicans (who carried out the attack) and that the minibus was mistaken for the police,” she said. Ms Marks said the family wanted a ‘dedicated investigation’ that would work towards uncovering all the facts behind her uncle’s death.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “HET worked with families on a confidential basis and, at the conclusion of the review process, provided bespoke reports detailing findings to the families who engaged. Out of respect for the privacy of the families involved, we do not publicly discuss or comment on the specifics of individual cases or reports provided to families.”