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Former Belfast soldier 'fled to Brisbane'

Date

Brendan McCourt

Clive Williams and members of the British Royal Military Police, pictured in 1972.

Clive Williams and members of the British Royal Military Police, pictured in 1972. Photo: Supplied

A member of a violent and secretive unit which allegedly hunted IRA members in Northern Ireland in the 1970s is thought to have fled to Queensland.

Former sergeant Clive Williams was a member of the Military Reaction Force, a group of undercover soldiers, who were active mainly in nationalist west Belfast in 1972.

He is understood to now be living in Queensland under another name, and the Australian government is being urged to investigate.

The MRF carried out a series of drive-by shootings in which two civilians were killed and 12 others were injured – even though there was no evidence that any were armed, or IRA members.

They included Patrick McVeigh, a 44-year-old father of six and 18-year-old Daniel Rooney, who was shot on St James Road.

Some members of the unit told a recently broadcast BBC Panorama program they ‘‘were not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group”.

The MRF say they sometimes acted as bait, goading the IRA to come out and fight.

After the program, Northen Ireland director of public prosecutions Barra McGrory ordered an investigation into their activities.

“Former members of this unit appear to have claimed on camera that they consider themselves to have been authorised to operate outside the law of Northern Ireland,’’ he said.

‘‘This raises the clear possibility, if not probability that serious criminal offences were committed.

“Accordingly, I have asked the Chief Constable to initiate an investigation into the activities of this unit, to include the authority upon which the unit and its commanders acted.”The families of their victims are also calling for an inquiry into their activities and have recently taken their campaign to politicians in Brussels, London, the US and Brisbane.

Eugene Devlin, who now lives in New York, was shot in the arm just before Mr McVeigh, at nearby Slievegallion Drive.

Mr Devlin and a friend had just been dropped off by a taxi and were walking home when they were fired upon from a cruising MRF car.

“I thought it was all over. I thought it was the end. They were meaning to kill or maim someone that night and they were trying their damnest to do that,” he said.

Mr Devlin, who is lobbying the United States Congress to take action, recently wrote to Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, after he learned Mr Williams had been living in the Queensland capital.

Mr Devlin told Cr Quirk he was “fighting to bring Williams and other MRF soldiers to justice” and urged him to take steps to send Mr Williams back to face court action in the United Kingdom.

Mr Devlin also alleged Mr Williams had been allowed to enter Australia and live there under an assumed name.In his reply, Cr Quirk said he “understood the seriousness of the matter”, but pointed out it was beyond his jurisdiction to take direct action.

Cr Quirk told Mr Devlin he had referred the matter to federal Attorney-General George Brandis.

Comment has been sought from Senator Brandis.

In the Panorama program, Mr Williams was confronted by reporter John Ware in Brisbane, but refused to answer questions.

In 1973, Mr Williams was put on trial at Belfast Crown Court accused of attempted murder, for shooting four unarmed men on the Glen Road in west Belfast.

Mr Williams claimed they had fired at him first. No guns were found at the scene and forensic tests on all four proved negative. None were members of the IRA.

Mr Williams told detectives he had fired from a standard army issue gun, but when confronted with evidence of bullet casings he said he had used a Thompson sub machine gun – a weapon frequently used by the IRA at the time.

Mr Williams was acquitted by a majority verdict.

He was subsequently promoted, left the army with the rank of captain and a military medal for bravery.

- with Cameron Atfield

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