THE son of a man murdered by loyalists in Londonderry in 1976 has demanded answers, following the publication of reports by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) that there was likely to have been collusion in the murder.
John Toland was murdered in November, 1976, in the Happy Landing public house where he worked in Eglinton, County Londonderry.
The Ulster Freedom Fighters claimed responsibility for the shooting, issuing a statement at the time calling the callous murder an “execution.” The group made entirely false allegations that Mr Toland was “an intelligence agent for the IRA” and that he “gathered information from intoxicated Protestants and passed it on to the IRA.”
John Toland was not “an intelligence agent” for any organisation, rather he was an innocent man with no links to any Republican activity, and with the publication of the Historical Enquiries Team’s findings, Danny Toland has spoken of how his father’s only “crime was to be a Catholic.”
He described his father as a “warm, generous, loving father and husband” who did not “have a sectarian bone in his body”.
“He served anyone who came into the pub, whether they were Protestant, Catholic, police or whatever else. He was innocent. He was not a Republican or anything like that. He ran a pub – that was all.”
Danny Toland is now demanding to know if his father’s tragic death could have been prevented, with the HET finding that there was likely to have been collusion in his murder.
He said: “Our questions for the Chief Constable, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Secretary of State are these.
“What was the role of the UDA commander in Derry at the time of these murders? Was he an agent who reported to his handlers? Could these murders have been prevented? Could my father be alive today?”
The HET report in the Toland case concluded that there it was ‘likely there was collusion’ in the murder.
A serving member of the UDR, David Hamilton, was convicted of handling the guns used in the murder.
The same gun was also used in the murder of Jim Loughrey, who was shot dead at his own home in Greysteel - although no one has ever been charged or convicted in connection with this killing.
His son Jim said: “Though some of the same individuals, some of the same guns, the same UDR source and the same organisations were involved in the murder of John Toland, disappointingly the findings in our case are weaker and contradictory.
“The finding that ‘collusion cannot be ruled out’ is, to put it mildly, unconvincing.”
John Loughrey added: “As a family we had serious concerns in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
“Our father had received death threats because of his republican views and feared genuinely for his life. Shortly before the shooting a UDR checkpoint had been in place at the entrance to the village.”
Similarly the HET report found that just minutes before John Toland was shot dead there had been a security force checkpoint in place nearby.
Both families asked how was it possible that the then commander of the UDA in Londonderry, a man called Andy Robinson, was never arrested or questioned about the killings even though he was named by a witness as being the man who gave the orders for both murders.