Robert Bradford: ‘Find the killers of MP and my brother’on November 14, 2021 at 6:37 am

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Belfast man describes 40-year search for justice after IRA double murder in November 1981.

Robert Bradford

Image source, Pacemaker

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.

Roy Campbell’s brother, Ken, was shot dead by the gang who murdered Reverend Robert Bradford in November 1981.

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

No one has ever been convicted of the murders.

But four decades on, the 71-year-old still hopes that at least some of the men who shot his brother and the South Belfast MP can still be brought to justice.

Roy Campbell and Norah Bradford

Image source, Pacemaker

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

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

One of the gang forced the pair to their knees before shooting Mr Campbell in the head and chest.

They then burst into an office where the MP was speaking to two elderly constituents and opened fire, fatally wounding him.

Children attending a disco in the centre dived under tables as the gunfire rang out.

Police at scene

Image source, Belfast Telegraph

Roy Campbell, who still lives close to the centre, was at home when the attack took place.

The retired shipyard worker recalls hearing two bursts of gunfire and then a neighbour came to the door asking him to come to the centre.

“When I got up there, Ken was lying on the ground at the door. I took his arm and the pulse was still beating but after two or three minutes it was gone,” he told BBC News NI.

“The kids had to run past my brother’s body to get out.”

Ken Campbell

Image source, PAcemaker

The IRA later issued a statement admitting it had carried out the attack.

Within hours of the killings, loyalist paramilitaries shot dead a Catholic teenager, Thomas McNulty, and fatally wounded 19-year-old Stephen Murphy in a second attack. Five more lives were lost in Northern Ireland by the end of the week.

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

“It was over in half an hour,” he said.

He said he heard nothing more from the police until he was visited some 30 years later by officers from the Historical Enquiries Team, a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) team that reviewed cold cases.

Their report concluded that the gunmen mistakenly believed that Ken Campbell was a police officer.

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

A number of witnesses gave descriptions of the gunmen, from which the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) produced photofits and circulated them in the media.

Peter Robinson and Robert Bradford

Image source, PAcemaker

One witness identified one of the gunmen from a police photograph. The RUC files did not name the suspect, so the HET team could not say if he had been arrested.

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

The gun itself was later recovered in a raid, but there were no arrests and no record of fingerprinting.

There were rumours that the intelligence services had allowed the attack on Mr Bradford to go ahead to protect an informer in the IRA.

But the HET report concluded: “There was no known intelligence to suggest that he was to be attacked at Finaghy Community Centre on Saturday Nov 14, 1981.”

The case is now being examined by detectives from Operation Kenova, the team investigating the activities of an IRA informer known as Stakeknife.

It is understood they are reviewing the murders to decide whether they should be officially added to their caseload.

Mr Campbell has also lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman, but has been warned that it is currently stuck in a backlog of more than 400 Troubles-related cases.

Lord Trimble and Doug Beattie

Image source, Pacemaker

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

They addressed the small gathering at the centre, organised by the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) where flowers were laid in memory of the two victims.

Speaking before the ceremony, Mrs Bradford, who has written a book on her experiences, said she was aware of the rumours around the murder of her husband and Ken Campbell.

“People have had conspiracy theories. I didn’t have any evidence. I am not a policeman,” she said.

Mrs Bradford said that her focus was not on achieving criminal convictions.

“At this point it’s not a priority for me. I leave that to God,” she said.

“Nothing gets past God, he knows exactly who was involved and ultimately they will have to face him.

“I can let that all go. I don’t have to carry it. And that is a message of hope.”

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

“Forty years on their families are as entitled to truth and justice as anyone else,” he said.

When asked if the case was still live, a PSNI spokesperson said: “If we find evidence, we will examine it.”

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