02 April 2006

Slain cabbie's family make cover-up claims

Sunday Life

By Ciaran McGuigan
cmcguigan@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
02 April 2006

RELATIVES of a taxi driver gunned down outside a Co Tyrone snooker club four years ago believe his killers are still free because an informer is being protected.

And after learning that phone records that could have provided crucial clues in the investigation into the slaying of Barney McDonald have been destroyed, they fear the killers may never be brought to justice.

The 52-year-old dad-of-eight was blasted to his death in April 2002 as he arrived to pick up a fare outside a snooker club in Donaghmore.

As he sat outside the club, two gunmen emerged from bushes and fired four shotgun blasts into the car, killing him instantly.

A number of people have been arrested in connection with the murder, but as the fourth anniversary approaches no one has ever been charged.

Mr McDonald's brother-in-law Kieran O'Donnell believes that the killers continue to escape justice to protect an informer.

His suspicions were heightened recently when cops wrote to him to tell him that the mobile phone records of a crucial witness had been destroyed (though not by police) and were no longer available to them.

Mr O'Donnell told Sunday Life: "Barney was shot that night and died within half a second of the trigger being pulled, but his family's worries were only just beginning.

"I have watched the family trying to cope with this and that's continuing four years after.

"I just want these people to be caught and to go to jail and do their time.

"The people who pulled the trigger were probably paid. It's the people that have set it up, and then covered it up, who have put us through hell."

"My main question is why kill Barney?

"He was of no political significance, killing him solved no problem, no one could have benefitted and nothing was gained. So why?

"This I do know: There are shadowy elements in the security services who knew that night that Barney was getting murdered. They have assisted in the people getting away."

He added:"After four years the police tell me now that the mobile phone records (of a major witness) have been destroyed.

"My first question at the time of the murder is as relevant now as it was then -how was it that Barney ended up in Donaghmore that night?

"Who was this mystery taxi fare that he arrived to collect?"

The investigation has already been probed by the Police Ombudsman, who found that "no evidence that the police had not conducted a proper and thorough investigation".

And the case is currently being investigated by the Serious Crime Review Team.

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