THE inquest into the UDA murder of a West Belfast man 30 years ago has resumed at Banbridge Courthouse today, Tuesday.

Paul 'Topper' Thompson was shot dead on 27 April 1994 in Springfield Park. He was 25-years-old. He was shot dead in a taxi whilst being given a lift home by an employee, who was himself injured in the attack. Loyalists opened fire on the taxi through a hole in the peace wall. Evidence suggests that the calls to and from the taxi were monitored by a scanning device used by loyalist paramilitaries and that the call for a ‘pick up’ in Springfield Park that evening may have been a deliberate decoy. The weapon used was a sub-machine gun that has been linked to five attempted killings over the period 1990-1993.

Prior to the Paul’s death, his family claim that he was subject to police harassment and believe that the RUC had evidence that the taxi firm, Grab-a-Cab, was the subject of a credible threat. 

In the previous two years before Paul’s death, members of the community in Springfield Park had been subjected to at least 10 attacks carried out by loyalist paramilitaries. The RUC and other state agencies, including the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), were aware of these attacks and the method by which these paramilitary groups entered Springfield Park.

On 27 April 1994, residents state that they notified the RUC, NIO, and their member of parliament that the ‘peace line’ separating Springfield Park and Springmartin Road had been compromised by the creation of a hole. No action was taken to either repair it, or to provide security for the members of the community, even though it was known that the area was subject to regular attacks by loyalist paramilitaries. 

Calls for a public inquiry into Paul’s murder were refused, and a ‘Community Public Inquiry’ was held in September 1994, involving international jurists and lawyers, including Judge Andrew Somers, Gareth Pierce, Judge Dan Coburn, Richard O’Meara, Dr Ray Murphy, Tom Fox, and Angela Ritchie. Documents were reviewed, statements were taken, evidence heard, submissions received, and a report was produced in 1995.

Paul's only surviving next-of-kin, his brother, Eugene Thompson, said: “It is almost 30 years since my brother was murdered. The first inquest hearing in 1995 was adjourned and we have faced delay and obstruction since then in getting to the truth. Our late mother spent the rest of her life fighting to get answers about why Paul died. I will continue this fight until the truth comes out about my brother’s death and how it could have been prevented.”
Gemma McKeown, CAJ solicitor representing Eugene Thompson, said: “We welcome the resumption of this inquest which must be carried out in compliance with Article 2 ECHR to ensure that it is an effective and independent investigation. This inquest has been beset with delays particularly concerning disclosure which has caused our client continued distress and it is imperative that it proceeds without further delay.”