Loyalist jailed over triple murder found dead

A LOYALIST who was convicted over one of the worst sectarian murders in Lurgan has been found dead in his home.

Thursday, 20th September 2012, 11:16 am

Noel Clarke was jailed for five years for his part in the murders of three young people in a mobile shop in Drumbeg.

Eileen Duffy (19), Katrina Rennie (17) and Brian Frizzell (29) were gunned down in the mobile sweet shop on March 28, 1991.

Clarke was linked to loyalist Billy Wright’s mid-Ulster Brigade of the UVF.

School girl Jamie Smith, just 14 at the time, escaped after being told to run by Ms Duffy moments before she herself was shot at close range.

It is understood Clarke was found dead at his home in Manor Park, Lisburn - the same address he had at the time of the killings.

Police said the 45-year-old’s death was not being investigated as a crime.

“This was a non-suspicious death,” a spokeswoman said.

Clarke originally faced three murder charges in relation to the killings. However he was acquitted of involvement and went on to plead guilty, along with associate William Robert Abbot, then living at Down Royal, Maze, to hijacking a van used by the killers.

Both were jailed for five years in November 1992.

After his arrest Abbott told police that a member of the UVF had asked him to hijack a vehicle ‘for a job’.

However he maintained that he didn’t know what the van would be used for after it was handed over.

The judge Mr Justice Carswell said he suspected the hijacker ‘knew more than he is prepared to admit’.

The blue Ford Escort van was hijacked from the Old Warren Estate in Lisburn on the day of the shootings.

James Thomas Harper was convicted of the triple murder in March 1995. At the time, the then Lord Chief Justice, Sir Brian Hutton, said it was ‘unfortunate’ that Harper alone was before the courts for the murders.

Harper had been the gang’s getaway driver and later burned the van used in the attack.

The gunman was never caught.

Eileen Duffy was working at the shop talking to the other two teenagers when the killers pulled up.

Plumber Brian Frizzell from the neighbouring Ardowen estate had stumbled on the shooting.

Days before the killings the owner had refused to serve members of the UDR.

Billy Wright’s gang terrorised the infamous murder triangle of Lurgan, Craigavon and Portadown killing 43 people between 1989 and 1994.

Last year the PSNI revealed that its records of interviews with suspects in the killings were among those destroyed because they had been kept in an asbestos-contaminated store.