Loyalists carried out 'body in the fridge' murder

Published: 17 Dec 2012 15:05

An official report by the Historical Enquiries Team has revealed that Derrylin butcher, Louis Leonard, was murdered in 1972 by two loyalists from the Rathcoole area of Belfast.

Louis Leonard's widow, Betty, and her grandson, also Louis, with a picture of her husband at the press conference in Enniskillen.

It was 40 years ago today that Louis Leonard was shot dead in a murder that became infamous as the body in the fridge murder. The young businessman, aged 26, was found dead in a fridge in his shop where he been working on Christmas orders.

At a press conference in Enniskillen, members of his family, including his widow Betty released details of new information contained in the HET report.

The Leonard family has been working with the Pat Finucane Centre to get more information about the murder, and family members admitted at the press conference that they were shocked by the new details revealed in the report.

It's now known that Mr. Leonard was shot dead by the two Belfast loyalists, who were living and working in Fermanagh at the time. One was a customs officer.

One of the killers, a Rathcoole UDA man, was described as "acting lieutenant colonel for Fermanagh and Tyrone."

The Leonard family also revealed details of evidence against the two men, who returned a hire car at Aldergrove airport the day after the murder with bullets still left in it.

Intelligence was also available to suggest that both men had travelled from Belfast to Derrylin to carry out the murder on behalf of Fermanagh UVF.

With intelligence and evidence available, RUC Headquarters sent a report to the police in Fermanagh, naming the two suspects.

This has led to the HET saying there was a shocking pattern of failures to follow up the most basic investigative practices by the RUC. The two suspects were never even interviewed.

And further intelligence reveals that the two men went on to murder Jim Murphy near Derrylin in 1974.

Unknown to his family at the time, it emerged later that Louis Leonard was a member of the IRA, and his family believes he was deliberately targeted. They say there is evidence that UDR members in Fermanagh provided information about him to the killers. And that Fermanagh UDR men were themselves loyalist paramilitaries at the time.

A number of events to mark the 40th anniversary of Louis Leonard's death were held in Derrylin at the week-end.

Further details of the evidence in the HET report and the family reaction in this week's Impartial Reporter.

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