THE son of a man murdered in the Oldpark bookies massacre has spoken for the first time of the “complete horror” of the scene in the aftermath of the UDA attack that took place 25 years ago on November 14 1992.
Pat Burns, who now works in the same building where his father Francis was killed, says while he has tried to move on for the sake of his family and kids he is constantly reminded of the attack as he goes to work each morning.
Francis was shot dead alongside John Lovett, 72, and Peter Orderly, 47 in the gun and grenade attack on the Brian Graham bookmakers on the Oldpark Road.
Pat says 25 years on he finds it hard to come to terms with the fact that the chief suspect in the killing, Stephen ‘Top Gun’ McKeag, is honoured with a poppy display on the Shankill even though he was responsible for killing Battle of Britain war hero John Lovett in the same attack which took place on the day before Remembrance Sunday.
“I pass the scene every day and I pass the poppy mural sometimes. To be honest, I don’t know how I feel, it makes me go quiet,” said Pat.
“I remember it was around 3.30pm and my cousin came round to the house and told us the bookies had been hit. I was 25 at the time and went into complete shock. I made my way round right away and there was a huge crowd of people outside the bookies. People were coming out injured and I could’ve gone inside but I didn’t.
“Dad was a man who didn’t have a political bone in his body. He was suffering from throat cancer at the time and couldn’t speak. He liked a beer and a bet.”
Last year John Lovett’s niece Maud Evans told the North Belfast News how her uncle had survived attacks from both the German army and torture by the Japanese only to be killed by the UDA following his retirement.
“John had volunteered for the RAF and was on the south coast of England during the Battle of Britain. After that he was in India and then Burma and that’s where he was captured,” she said.
“You could have written a book about John. He was very good-natured and he would have done anybody a good turn. He liked gambling and that’s why he was at the bookies. He didn’t drink and loved practical jokes.
“My mother always said John would have run from Belfast to Cork to get you a box of matches if he thought you needed them.”
Sectarian killer McKeag was linked to the murders of 12 innocent people, earning him the gruesome nickname ‘Top Gun’. He died in September 2000 from a drug overdose but while alive was a key member of Johnny Adair’s ‘C Company’ UFF gang.
Pat says he would like to see a plaque erected to remember his father and the other victims.
“I think it would be nice to remember him and the other men who died.”