25 April 2006

INLA hunted evil murderer Hamilton, but the police got to him first

Belfast Telegraph

IRSP official says 'terror' group wanted to quiz killer

By Clare Weir
24 April 2006

A senior republican last night confirmed the INLA was searching for brutal killer Trevor Hamilton to quiz him over the whereabouts of missing librarian Attracta Harron, before he was arrested by the PSNI.

Willie Gallagher, a leading Strabane member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, said Hamilton's mother and another person met with him after being warned by police that the farmworker was under threat from dissident republicans.

The 23-year-old, who is soon to be sentenced for murdering Mrs Harron, had already raped and threatened another woman when he was just 17.

Less than four months after his release from a seven-year sentence for that crime, Mrs Harron was brutally murdered.

Mr Gallagher said last night that both Hamilton's mother and the person who accompanied her believed that Hamilton "was no way involved" in the mother-of-five's fate.

Only his arrest a short time later saved him from being questioned by a republican gang.

Mr Gallagher said last night: "Mrs Hamilton and another person came to me and when I asked them why they came to us and not the Continuity or Real IRA, which I would class as dissidents, they said that the police had given them advice.

"They said that Hamilton was under threat and they wanted it clarified. They both vouched for him.

"They said he had problems."

Added the IRSP man, whose party is the political wing of the INLA: "I never got back to them after they came to me but I think it is a gross exaggeration to say that there was a death threat out against him,"

"I certainly think from the information I was given, that people wanted to question him about the whereabouts of the body. A lot of people were aware of his past and his background and I think the INLA wanted to make their own inquiries.

"People thought beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was involved.

"However, he was then arrested, but I have to say I understand that the intention was always to question him, certainly not to kill him."

Attracta vanished on her way home from Mass in Lifford, Co Donegal, in late 2003. Her bludgeoned body was discovered in a shallow grave behind Hamilton's home the following April and he was arrested shortly afterwards.

His trial ended with a guilty verdict earlier this month, and a warning that he may never be freed again.

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