Swatragh IRA killer refused to listen to sentencing

Seamus Martin Kearney
Seamus Martin Kearney

CONVICTED IRA killer Seamus Martin Kearney from Swatragh was told on Friday he should serve a minimum of 20 years for the brutal and futile killing of RUC officer John Proctor.

However, in reality, he will serve less than two years under the terms of the Belfast - Good Friday Agreement.

Last week, Belfast Recorder, Judge David McFarland convicted 54-year-old Kearney, of the reservist’s murder, telling him he was “either the gunman, the driver of the Ford Escort RS200 (getaway car) or was an occupant of the car being present to provide support for the killing”.

Kearney, of Gorteade Road, Swatragh, Co Derry, had denied the murder of the 25-year-old reservist and possessing the Armalite AR15 assault rifle used to shoot him dead minutes after visiting his wife June, and new-born son, John Jr, at the Mid Ulster Hospital on September 14, 1981.

Judge McFarland said he did “not take into account the release scheme under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement”. Quoting from two senior law lords, he added that the courts still had to determine the appropriate regardless of any remission or parole it may attract.

The Belfast Crown Court judge said the shooting of Constable Proctor, even with “the passage of 30 years has in no way diminished the brutality of this murder”.

However, Kearney heard little of Judge McFarland’s condemnation of him, having turned a deaf ear to proceedings. When brought into the dock, Kearney dismissed a fresh offer of ear phones, telling the judge: “I don’t want to hear anything .... you continue on”.

Regardless, Judge McFarland told him that the policeman had been an easy target for Kearney and others who “were waiting for him” after visiting his wife June and new-born son Jonny, at the Mid-Ulster Hospital.

“I do not know,” the judge told an unlistening Kearney, “if you were the gunman, were driving the ‘getaway’ car, or were there to provide support”.

However, he added that in all of the circumstances his shooting “has to be one of the most appalling murders committed during that period of our history known as ‘the Troubles’. The passage of 30 years has in no way diminished the brutality of this murder.

“That a man can be targeted when his is attending a hospital to visit his wife and newly born son, continues to appal all right-minded members of society .... He was murdered in a most brutal fashion and given no chance to defence himself or escape.

“He was targeted for no other reason than he was a serving police officer. Looking back over the 32 years sine the murder, one is struck by the absolute futility of incidents of this kind,” declared Judge McFarland.

The judge added that while the policeman’s son “bears his father’s name, no doubt with pride, but it is a constant reminder for him, and the rest of the family, of the cruel nature of his father’s death”.

Earlier a prosecution lawyer said the murder had a ‘devastating impact’ on the family, who had been looking forward to a full life, following the birth of a new son, but which was turned into total carnage and chaos by the shooting.

The lawyer said Constable Proctor, was shot by terrorists who deliberately targeted him, in a planned operation, because he was a serving officer carrying out a public service. Kearney, he said, was one of those involved, and that there no mitigating features in the case.

Later when asked if the defence had any submissions to make, Arthur Harvey QC replied that he had none to make.