Families appeal for information on brutal shooting of teenagers

Jim Donaghy, brother of Thomas Donaghy who was killed at Abbey Meat Packers factory along with Margaret McErlean in Febraury 1974. Margaret was shot numberous times and her gloves and basket, shown here, which she had on her lap at the time are riddled with bullet holes. Both families have made an re-issued an appeal for information. INNT 08-023-FP
Jim Donaghy, brother of Thomas Donaghy who was killed at Abbey Meat Packers factory along with Margaret McErlean in Febraury 1974. Margaret was shot numberous times and her gloves and basket, shown here, which she had on her lap at the time are riddled with bullet holes. Both families have made an re-issued an appeal for information. INNT 08-023-FP
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THE FAMILIES of two Newtownabbey teenagers brutally shot dead almost 40 years ago have appealed for anyone with information on the killings to come forward.

The Donaghy and McErlean families have launched the appeal following a report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) into the 1974 shooting.

They have said the report has left them with more questions than answers, and further added to their anguish over the murders.

Margaret McErlean, aged 18, and 16-year-old Thomas Donaghy were shot when two UFF gunmen ambushed the car they were in as they arrived for work at the Abbey Meat Packers factory on the Glenville Road.

They were two young Catholic teens. Thomas was not long out of school and Margaret was engaged to be married.

The friends were in the vehicle with three other teenagers who were also Catholic. They escaped with serious injuries and survived.

Thomas died at the scene, but it was a week later before Margaret succumbed to pneumonia in hospital as a result of her gunshot wounds.

Some of those working in the factory at the time later went on to become notorious figures in the Troubles and it is believed the car in which the victims were killed and its occupants were specifically targeted.

Margaret McErlean’s brother died two years before her death when an IRA bomb he and two friends were handling detonated.

He was 17 years old when he died and although he was a member of the IRA, his family condemned the organisation for the incident and described themselves as “non-political”. Another of the car’s occupants had also lost a brother in the same incident.

In the aftermath of the shooting, when speaking in parliament, the West Belfast MP Gerry Fitt raised fears of collusion between the RUC and loyalist paramilitaries in the incident.

Numerous questions were asked at the time, and the families have continued to fight for answers for the past 37 years.

Read the full story in this week’s Times...