Concluding our series on Collusion Roisin Cox speaks to the family of Paul Thompson, whose murder helped convince many people that the RUC/British Army were working with loyalist gangs

Ten years after Paul ‘Topper’ Thompson was gunned down by the UDA, an inquest has still not been held into his murder.

Evidence which has emerged since Paul’s murder suggests that the 25-year-old didn’t stand a chance in the carefully planned gun attack which ended his life.

Loyalist gunmen, who had tapped into a local taxi firm’s radio system, lay in wait to ambush the taxi in which the Dermot Hill man was travelling with his friend Patrick Elley.

The gunmen had easy access into nationalist Springfield Park from loyalist Springmartin, through a hole which had been cut in the peace line fence earlier that day. The loyalists were able to escape through the same breach in the fence unhindered, although RUC barracks overlooked the area in which the gunmen lay in wait. No-one has ever been charged in connection with Paul’s murder.

Paul’s mother Margaret says that her youngest son’s murder has devastated her family and admits that her son’s killing drove her to contemplate taking her own life.

Paul was shot dead on 27 April 1994 around 11.30pm. The fact that there was a hole in the fence between Springfield Park and Springmartin had not gone unnoticed by local residents. A member of the local residents’ committee had seen two men cutting through the fence on the morning of April 27 and contacted the NIO and the RUC because she feared that loyalists could gain access to the area. Her concerns fell on deaf ears, so she leafleted the local area urging residents to be vigilant. Later that night, the same woman would cradle Paul Thompson in her arms as he lay dying following the gun attack.

For Margaret Thompson time has not eased the pain of losing her beloved son. The fact that the inquest into his death has been opened and adjourned seven times because the RUC won’t hand over statements has added to her grief.

“As a wee boy, Paul was into everything, he was just a typical wee lad. He used to play all summer on the mountain and the mountain practically reared him, he was always bringing animals and stuff into the house,” said Margaret.
“There was only a year and three months between Paul and his older brother Eugene and they were like twins,” she added.

Margaret said that Paul was an outgoing popular character who was well known in the local area.

“He took each day as it came and didn’t really worry about anything.”

Margaret said that Paul had been harassed for most of his short life.

She only learned after her son’s murder that he had been threatened by the RUC just an hour before he was killed.

“Before he was shot dead he had been out in the car with his friend and they got stopped coming out of the ’Murph.

“The police recognised Paul and one of them said to him, ‘I’ll have you in six weeks time, Topper’. Paul said to him ‘I don’t think so, I have all the time in the world’.

“I wish they had lifted him that night,” said Margaret.

Paul’s aunt, Celine Crilly, said that Paul’s murder has devastated the entire family. When she heard the news that her nephew had been shot dead she reacted with disbelief – as did other members of the family.

“I remember that everyone was in total shock. I got to the City Hospital and Margaret was there and Eugene was there, it was just pandemonium, it was terrible,” said Celine.

“I went to Grosvenor Road police station and then to Forster Green Hospital where I identified Paul’s body. Paul was lying on a bed and he had a sheet over him, he just looked like he was sleeping,” she said.

After Paul’s murder Margaret said that her family was constantly harassed, including during his wake. Friends of Paul’s were forced to guard the phone during the wake, to intercept abusive phone calls from loyalists.

“I didn’t realise what was going on until my brother took one of the calls. My brother lifted the phone and the caller said ‘Paul’s away to heaven, we sent Paul to heaven with an AK47’. At six o’clock on the morning of Paul’s funeral there was a call and whoever was on the phone asked where the party was and said ‘sure didn’t Paul go out with a bang’,” said Margaret.

Following the funeral, Margaret started to receive hate mail. She was forced to change her phone number and have her mail checked in the weeks following her son’s murder.

In September 1994 an inquiry was held by the local community into Paul Thompson’s murder. The inquiry was held in Conway Mill and was chaired by the respected American jurist Andrew Somers. The RUC and NIO were invited to attend the inquiry but declined to do so. Over two days a host of international lawyers heard evidence from 15 witnesses. In his concluding statement Judge Somers accused the RUC of colluding with Paul Thompson’s killers.

“I have reviewed the evidence presented to our inquiry and have concluded that the death of Paul Thompson and the wounding of Patrick Elley could have easily been prevented by a minimum of police vigilance. I have also concluded that the shootings that took place on April 27 1994 were part of a pattern of violent abuse focused upon the Catholic nationalist community in West Belfast and that the police conduct in this case and others reflects permissive and cooperative conduct which has aided loyalist murder gangs in their intimidation of the Catholic community. Such conduct in my opinion constitutes collusion in the murder conspiracy.”

Margaret says that even ten years on, not a day goes by when she doesn’t think about Paul.

“I wanted to do myself in. It seemed to me that if I did then everything would be very nice and very quiet,” said Margaret.

“There are nights when I come into the house and it is like somebody turning on a video that I can’t turn off. It is in my mind all the time, all the time, all the time.”

Paul’s brother Eugene says the family is hopeful that one day they will know the truth about the murder. He says that the first step on the path to the truth will be an inquest.

“I want whoever is involved within the RUC to be held responsible, and there should be somebody brought to task. If they know who Paul’s killers are then they should tell the truth,” he said.

Margaret added: “We need to have an inquest and we can’t, because the RUC never handed their statements over. If they have nothing to hide why don’t they just hand the statements over?”

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