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Friday, December 3, 2021

Robert Bradford: ‘Find the killers of MP and my brother’


A Belfast man has described a 40-year search for justice for his brother who was killed during an IRA attack that claimed the life of an MP.

Ken Campbell, Roy Campbell’s brother, was murdered by the same gang that murdered Reverend Robert Bradford in November 1981.

The Ulster Unionist MP, 40, and the caretaker, 29, were attacked during a constituency clinic at Finaghy Community Centre.

No one has ever been convicted in connection with the murders.

Despite this, the 71-year-old remains hopeful that at least some of the men who shot his brother and the South Belfast MP will be brought to justice.

Roy Campbell and Robert Bradford’s widow, Norah, attended a wreath-laying ceremony on Saturday

Mr Bradford, a former Methodist minister and Orange Order member, was the only MP assassinated in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

On Saturday morning, Ken Campbell, 29, was outside talking to his police bodyguard when three gunmen dressed in painters’ overalls arrived at the centre.

Before shooting Mr Campbell in the head and chest, one of the gang members forced the pair to their knees.

They then stormed into an office where the MP was speaking with two elderly constituents and opened fire, killing him.

As the gunfire rang out, children at a disco in the centre dove under tables.

Police at the scene of the double murder

Roy Campbell, who still lives near the centre, was at home at the time of the attack.

The retired shipyard worker recalls hearing two bursts of gunfire, followed by a neighbour knocking on his door and asking him to come to the centre.

“Ken was lying on the ground outside the door when I arrived. I took his arm, and his pulse was still beating, but it had stopped after two or three minutes “He told BBC News Northern Ireland.

“To get out, the kids had to run past my brother’s body.”

Ken Campbell was shot dead while talking to Mr Bradford’s police bodyguard

The IRA later admitted to carrying out the attack in a statement.

Within hours of the murders, loyalist paramilitaries killed a Catholic teenager, Thomas McNulty, and critically injured 19-year-old Stephen Murphy in a second attack. By the end of the week, five more people had been killed in Northern Ireland.

In 1982, Roy Campbell attended the inquest into the two deaths but learned little.

“It was done in a half hour,” he said.

He claimed he received no further contact from the police until he was visited 30 years later by officers from the Historical Enquiries Team, a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) unit that investigated cold cases.

According to their findings, the gunmen mistook Ken Campbell for a police officer.

They said more than 30 people had been arrested in connection with the murders and that the police investigation was “well managed and well resourced.”

A number of witnesses described the gunmen, which the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) used to create photofits and distribute them in the media.

Mr Bradford, right, pictured talking to the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) Peter Robinson

One of the gunmen was identified by a witness from a police photograph. Because the RUC files did not include the suspect’s name, the HET team was unable to determine whether he had been arrested.

A pistol grip that appeared to have broken off a machine gun used by the gang was among the forensic evidence gathered at the scene.

The gun was later recovered during a raid, but no arrests were made and no fingerprinting was done.

Rumours circulated that the intelligence services had allowed the attack on Mr Bradford to take place in order to protect an informer in the IRA.

However, according to the HET report, “there was no known intelligence to suggest that he was to be attacked at Finaghy Community Centre on Saturday, November 14, 1981.”

Detectives from Operation Kenova, the team looking into the activities of an IRA informant known as Stakeknife, are now looking into the case.

They are reportedly reviewing the murders to determine whether they should be officially added to their caseload.

Mr Campbell has also filed a complaint with the Police Ombudsman, but has been warned that it is currently being held up in a backlog of over 400 Troubles-related cases.

Former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Trimble and current leader Doug Beattie were among those who attended the ceremony on Saturday

On Saturday, Roy Campbell joined Mr Bradford’s widow Norah at a ceremony commemorating the attack’s 40th anniversary.

They spoke to a small crowd gathered at the centre, which had been organised by the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and where flowers had been laid in memory of the two victims.

Mrs Bradford, who has written a book about her experiences, stated before the ceremony that she was aware of the rumours surrounding her husband and Ken Campbell’s murder.

“There have been conspiracy theories. I didn’t have any proof. “I’m not a cop,” she explained.

Mrs Bradford stated that her primary goal was not to obtain criminal convictions.

“At the moment, it’s not a top priority for me.” “I’ll leave it to God,” she said.

“Nothing escapes God’s notice; he knows exactly who was involved, and they will eventually have to face him.”

“I’m ready to let go of it all.” I’m not required to carry it. And that is a hopeful message.”

Even in 1981, Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said, the killings “managed to shock a Northern Ireland that had become hardened by 12 years of terrorist violence.”

“For forty years, their families have had the same right to truth and justice as anyone else,” he said.

When asked if the investigation was still ongoing, a PSNI spokesperson stated, “If we find evidence, we will examine it.”

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