The families of two police officers shot at point blank range in Lurgan 25 years ago today have vowed to continue fighting for justice.
Detectives from Legacy Investigation Branch are appealing for information on the 25th anniversary of the murders of Constable John Graham and Reserve Constable David Johnston in Lurgan on June 16, 1997.
The two officers were conducting a beat patrol in Church Walk in the town 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.
Both officers were in their thirties and were married with young families.
John, 34, was from Richhill and had three daughters aged 10, 7 and 2.
David, 30, was from Lisburn and had 2 sons aged 7 and 3.
The murders left five young children without their fathers. John and David never had the opportunity to see their children grow up.
Speaking about her father’s murder, John’s daughter Abbie said: “On Monday, June 16, we said goodbye to daddy and went to school. When we left him, he was sitting in the kitchen, with my younger sister on his knee, feeding her peanut butter toast.
“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, I can’t tell you how hard it is to watch your own mothers’ heart break before you. 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. We needed our daddy then and we still need him today, but right now we also need you, so please, please help us to get justice for our dads.”
Speaking about his father’s murder, David’s son Louie said: “Five seconds was all it took to change the course of our family’s history and take our dad away, leaving 25 years of unimaginable pain, loss and longing for our wonderful daddy.
“Not defined by the uniform he wore; daddy met all based on the content of their character. Dad was moved with compassion to serve the local community, was full of love, and was loved by his family deeply. His heart was so big there was room for everyone inside of it, his laughter infectious, his smile warm.
“Sadly, this was left vacant from his children growing up, and now the same heartache repeats for his grandchildren as well. We ask anyone with information to please come forward and help us once again change the course of our family’s history as we seek justice.”
Detective Superintendent Stephen Wright from Legacy Investigation Branch said: “Shortly before 11.55am on Monday, June 16, 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.
“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. This is in stark contrast to the terrorists responsible for their brutal murders.
“My appeal today is aimed at the local people of Lurgan who were in the area of Church Walk on the day of the murders.
“I believe that someone must have seen the gunmen before or after the attack or will know who these individuals were.
“Did you see them make their escape after the attack? Did you see the green coloured Rover car in the vicinity of Church Walk or being abandoned and set on fire in the Kilwilke Estate?”
Detective Superintendent Wright continued: “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.
“I am appealing to anyone with any knowledge of what happened that day, whether as a witness or from personal involvement, who have not spoken to police previously to do so now.
“It is not too late, if anyone now feels they are able to talk to us, we are ready to listen.
“We are appealing for assistance from the local community who we still believe can help us, despite the amount of time which has elapsed. Anyone with information can contact detectives in Legacy Investigation Branch on 101 or LIBEnquiries@psni.pnn.police.uk. You can also submit a report online using our non-emergency reporting form via www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/ or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org/.”