28 November 2005

'Murder accused a pal of victim'

Sunday Life

By Stephen Breen
27 November 2005

THE mother of a UVF murder victim last night spoke for the first time about her despair after learning one of the men accused of her son's killing was once his best pal.

Ann Robb, whose son Andrew (19) and pal David McIlwaine (18) were butchered in February, 2000, can't believe that a close family friend has been charged with the killings.

Mark Robert Burcombe, who appeared in court earlier this month, was in the same class as Andrew at Portadown College and they socialised together.

Burcombe also went to school and played football with David McIlwaine

Until now, Mrs Robb had been too upset to talk about the close links between her son and the man accused of his grisly murder.

She told Sunday Life how her son and the accused were "inseparable" when they studied home economics at college.

Mrs Robb also said that Andrew spent every weekend at his friend's house before they stopped speaking to each other.

The pair are believed to have fallen out over their views on tensions between the UVF and LVF in Portadown.

Said the Co Armagh woman: "I was completely shocked when I was told Mark Burcombe was being charged with Andrew's murder.

"I could hardly bring myself to talk about it, but realised that I had to say something. I still can't quite believe it.

"The pair of them were very good friends and were well-known for playing pranks on their fellow classmates at Portadown College.

"If I ever needed to know where Andrew was, I would just ring Mark's house because they were always together.

"I know they fell out, but they did speak to each other in the street shortly before Andrew and David were murdered.

"The whole thing is very hard to take in because I also know Mark's mother well."

Burcombe was the second man charged with the killings in the wake of a nation-wide TV appeal about the stabbings.

Steven Leslie Brown, (25), from Castle Place, Castlecaufield, Co Tyrone, has been charged with the murder for a second time.

He had previously been accused in 2000, but the charges were dropped.

Both the accused have been remanded in custody.

sbreen@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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