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PSNI makes fresh appeal to find RUC killers 25 years on

The force’s legacy team have appealed for help to find who carried out one of the last atrocities of the The Troubles by killing two officers.

Detectives from Legacy Investigation Branch have urged the community to share information on the murder of Constable John Graham and Reserve Constable David Johnston who were killed in Lurgan on 16 June 1997.

The two officers were conducting a beat patrol when two gunmen ran up behind them and shot them at close range.

Despite the efforts of doctors who rushed from a nearby surgery, both officers died at the scene.

Just a few months later, the Good Friday Agreement was signed so they became among the last three Royal Ulster Constabulary officers to be killed.

The attack was blamed on the Provisional IRA at the time and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) says a number of lines of inquiry remain open. A prominent Republican is understood to have been linked to the case but prosecutors say there is insufficient evidence to bring a charge.

The force hopes allegiances in the Republican community have since shifted.

Detective Superintendent Stephen Wright from Legacy Investigation Branch said: “Shortly before 11.55am on Monday 16 June 1997 John and David were on foot patrol in Church Walk when they were shot at close range by two gunmen who ran up behind them. 

"The gunmen, who may have been disguised by wearing wigs, are believed to have made their escape in a green coloured Rover 216 car, VRM YIJ 2371 that was later found burnt out in the Kilwilke Estate in the town.”

He made a direct appeal to the community: “In the years since these brutal murders circumstances and allegiances may have changed, people’s lifestyles change and I want those who know who was involved that day to search their consciences and come forward to the police.” 

The appeal comes as Northern Ireland Secretary is attempting to limit prosecutions in paramilitary cases which has met stiff opposition from victims’ families.

Both officers were in their thirties and their deaths left five young children without their fathers. 

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has taken up the case on behalf of the two men’s families.

Speaking about her father’s murder, John’s daughter Abbie said: “On Monday 16th June, we said goodbye to daddy and went to school. After we left him, daddy went into work that morning, and never came home. I can’t begin to describe the devastation of losing a parent at such a young age.

“What I can tell you, is that one of the only hopes we have to this day is that whoever committed this crime could be brought to justice. All I can do, is ask, or even beg, that anyone with any information, no matter how small, or seemingly insignificant to please come forward and help us.”

Det Supt Wright added: “John and David were young men murdered while serving the local community of Lurgan. I would ask everyone to take a moment to stop and think about that. Murdered for no other reason than that they were police officers providing a service to the local community and local people of Lurgan.” 

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