Questions raised by the Toland family to the HET

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At the conclusion of the report into John Toland’s murder by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), his family posed a series of questions to the investigating body to which the HET provided answers.

The family stated that “not once did a police officer call and see us.” An RUC officer from the time, Sergeant Edmund Parks, said that he had kept in regular contact with Marie Toland, John’s wife, for at least three months after the murder. However, the HET acknowledged with regret that the family had not been updated as they had wanted to be. This they said was “a hugely insensitive and recurring theme in many HET reviews.”

The Tolands also said they had received information that the lights in Eglinton village were switched off before the attack and remained like that until the two youthful gunmen escaped. The HET replied: “There is no record within any of the RUC or any case papers that the lights were turned off before John’s murder. None of the witnesses refers to this happening.”

John Toland’s relatives also maintained there was an RUC checkpoint in the village close to the Happy Landing when the attack took place, and asked if this was the case, why were the RUC there and what did they do to catch the murderers in the wake of the attack?

The HET reply said: “It was established by the original investigation team that a RUC mobile patrol had been carrying out routine road stops further along Woodvale Road, about a mile away, prior to the shooting. This patrol had left the location before John’s murder. All occupants of the vehicles seen or had been stopped by this patrol were interviewed by the investigation team. The case papers show that these people did not have any information that might have assisted the investigation.”

The Toland family then asked if there was any suggestion of security force collusion in the murder. They defined collusion as the passing of information, planning of the attack, taking part in the attack, allowing the gunmen safe passage and not investigating the murder properly.

The HET reply was: “In view if the links between serving or previous members of the security forces as well as the linkage of the weapons used in the murders of John and James Loughrey, Michael McHugh and Kevin Mulhern, HET believes it is likely there was collusion between individual members of the security forces and those responsible for John’s murder. However, in the absence of any further information, it is not possible to be any more specific about the nature and extent of any collusion.”

The family also asked about the motivation for the murder of John Toland.

The HET reply stated: “HET is unable to categorically state what the motive for John’s murder was. It seems probable that the main motive for John’s murder was sectarianism linked to an opportunity to seek financial gain as a secondary motive.”

Elsewhere in the HET report into John Toland’s murder, it is noted that for some months after the murder, on the 22nd of each month, the day on which the murder took place, Marie Toland received a call from a man claiming he was was from the UFF and had carried out the murder. The man then issued warnings discouraging any member of the Toland family becoming involved with the running of the Happy Landing bar again.

Finally, the Toland family asked if John Toland’s murder could have been prevented.

The HET stated: “No intelligence was known to exist which could have prevented John’s murder. Similarly, there were no threats recorded against him, which might have indicated that an attempt was going to be made on his life.”

A man was convicted of shooting John Toland and two other murders. In a separate case, the same man was said to be part of a gang which terrorised elderly people in Co Londonderry for three years, including robbing them in remote farmhouses. In one case, they broke the ribs of a 78-year-old man, poured hot water over the hands of a 75-year-old man, beat a 68-year-old with a stick and trussed up an 88-year-old for eight hours. Three years into sentence for the robberies, the convicted man confessed to the killing of John Toland and Kevin Mulhern and gave assistance to the police. He received a life sentence, but was released seven years into this sentence.

This admission was made in jail by Leonard Campbell in 1986. He named six other men as being involved in John Toland’s murder, who were all arrested. Two of them – Colin Gray and David Hamilton were charged – but later acquitted in court of Mr Toland’s murder. However, Hamilton was convicted of posessing weapons used or intended to be used in John’s murder. Three other men named by Campbell were released without charge.