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1991 Drumbeg killings
Part of the Troubles
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Location Drumbeg estate in Craigavon,
County Armagh,
Northern Ireland
Date 28 March 1991 (GMT)
Attack type
Weapons 9mm Browning pistol
Deaths 3 Irish Catholic civilians
Perpetrator Ulster Volunteer Force (using the cover-name Protestant Action Force )
UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade
Billy Wright (ordered attack)

On the 28 March 1991 the Loyalist paramilitary organization the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) carried out a gun attack on a mobile shop in the Drumbeg estate in the town of Craigavon in County Armagh shooting dead three Catholic civilians. Two of those killed were teenage girls.[1]

It is believed that the former Loyalist Volunteer Force leader and at that time in 1991 UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade commander Billy Wright had planned and ordered the attack. Those killed were Eileen Duffy (19), Katrina Rennie (16) and Brian Frizzell (29).

Background[edit | edit source]

The year 1991 during The Troubles saw a return to the tit-for-tat sectarian killings between Irish Republican and Ulster Loyalist paramilitaries that plagued Belfast, Armagh and other places in Northern Ireland during the mid 1970s which saw hundreds of both Catholic and Protestant civilians killed.[2][3][4]

Just three weeks earlier, in the 1991 Cappagh killings, the UVF carried out a gun attack on a pub in the staunchly Republican County Tyrone village of Cappagh, killing one civilian and three IRA members.[5]

Shooting[edit | edit source]

The two teenage girls who were killed were sitting behind the counter in the mobile shop along with a third teenage girl, Jamie Smith. There was several people in the shop at the time and the girls were talking among themselves. A van pulled up outside the shop and a masked gunman wearing military style clothing, armed with a 9mm Browning pistol, jumped out. One of the people in the shop presuming it was Republicans yelled "Provisional IRA, hit the floor!". Most people managed to escape, but the three girls were stuck and trapped behind the counter. The gunman pulled Jamie Smith by the hair calling her a "Fenian slut" and then threw her out of the shop. The UVF gunman then shot Duffy and Rennie, killing them both. While the attack was taking place, Brian Frizzell walked into the shop, and was shot as the gunman was leaving the store.[6]

Eileen's brother Brendan Duffy was one of the first at the shop after the attack, he described the scene:

"Brian Frizzell was lying in a pool of blood. Katrina was still sitting on the crate. She was dead but her blue eyes were wide open and there was a bullet wound on her neck. Eileen was slumped on the floor, shot in the head. Her face was badly swollen and blood was pumping out of her head and ears. I tried to resuscitate her but in my heart I knew she was gone. I was so numb, I couldn't cry." [7]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

The killings drew widespread condemnation from both the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland. The funerals were attended by thousands of people. It's believed the killings of Protestant civilians Derek Patterson on the 9 April & Ian Sproule on the 12 April were in retaliation to the Drumbeg killings.[8][9][10]

Eight months after the attack three more civilians were killed by the UVF in the Craigavon area at the Carbet Road-Carn Road junction. Desmond Rogers (54), Fergus Magee (28), and John Lavery (27) were shot dead, Rogers and Magee were Catholics, Lavery a Protestant. The three men were shot in their car after being stopped at an illegal UVF checkpoint (a similar tactic to that used by the UVF in the Miami Showband killings1975). The UVF later apologized for killing the Protestant man.[11] In October 1992, a man, Vicky Ahitty (24), from Portadown, was charged with these and other murders and firearms possession.[12]

In 1992, Tom Harper was charged with the Drumbeg mobile shop murders, although he was the driver and not the gunman. He was given a life sentence for his part in the murders.[13] The attack was ordered by Billy Wright, but the gunman has never been charged. Local allegations of security force collusion remain and it was noted that, on the night of the shooting, the normally heavy police presence was not apparent. In September 2011, the PSNI announced that records of interviews with suspects in key murder investigations from 1985 to 1993 had been destroyed in 1998 as the place they were stored was contaminated with asbestos. They included the records in this case.[14]

UTV Documentary on killings[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]


  1. Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/cgi-bin/dyndeaths.pl?querytype=date&day=28&month=03&year=1991. Retrieved 5 January 2018. 
  2. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1975". http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch75.htm. Retrieved 5 January 2018. 
  3. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1976". http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch76.htm. Retrieved 5 January 2018. 
  4. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1977". http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch77.htm. Retrieved 5 January 2018. 
  5. Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/cgi-bin/dyndeaths.pl?querytype=date&day=3&month=03&year=1991. Retrieved 5 January 2018. 
  6. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1991". http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch91.htm#28391. Retrieved 5 January 2018. 
  7. "Newshound: Links to daily newspaper articles about Northern Ireland". http://www.nuzhound.com/articles/breen/arts2011/sep18_Eileen_Duffy_murder_evidence_destroyed__SBreen_Sunday-World.php. Retrieved 5 January 2018. 
  8. http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/cgi-bin/dyndeaths.pl?querytype=date&day=13&month=04&year=1991
  9. http://www.apnewsarchive.com/1991/IRA-Says-It-Killed-Relative-Of-Legislator/id-63727dcdd20b39f86e2b9cc86b2a9679
  10. Aaron Edwards - UVF: Behind The Mask p.203
  11. http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/cgi-bin/dyndeaths.pl?querytype=date&day=14&month=11&year=1991
  12. "Man in court over Ulster killings". The Independent (Jason Bennetto, 25 October 1992). London, UK. 25 October 1992. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/man-in-court-over-ulster-killings-1559543.html. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  13. "Murder accused from town". Lurgan Mail (24 August 2010). http://www.lurganmail.co.uk/news/local/murder_accused_from_town_1_1781673. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  14. "No justice for mobile shop murder families after evidence is destroyed". Sunday World (Suzanne Breen, 18 September 2011). http://www.nuzhound.com/articles/breen/arts2011/sep18_Eileen_Duffy_murder_evidence_destroyed__SBreen_Sunday-World.php. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 

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