Inquest into (Liam) Paul ‘Topper’ Thompson’s death hears from civilian witnessesJune 7, 2023
The inquest into the death of (Liam) Paul ‘Topper’ Thompson resumed this week at Banbridge Courthouse, with evidence being heard from civilian witnesses to this terrible tragedy.
Paul’s surviving next-of-kin, his brother, Eugene Thompson, welcomed the further progress in this inquest, which first opened first on 3 April 2023. It has been 29 years since his brother was murdered. To date, an official independent effective investigation into this death has not been concluded and no one has ever been held to account for his death.
Prior to Paul’s death, members of the community in Springfield Park had been subjected to regular attacks conducted by loyalist paramilitaries. As a result, many had grills fitted to their windows, drop bars on their front and back doors, and even cages installed on the inside of their front doors. They were constantly alert and fearful. It was a way of life difficult for many to envisage now.
The community, including his family, consider that the RUC and other state agencies, including the Northern Ireland Office (‘NIO’), were aware of these attacks and believe the method by which these paramilitary groups entered Springfield Park was known to both the RUC and the NIO.
On the morning of 27 April 1994, residents claim that they notified the RUC, NIO, and their member of parliament that the ‘Peace Line’ separating Springfield Park and Springmartin Road had been compromised by the creation of a hole in the fencing. They were concerned about the access it might give to loyalist paramilitaries to mount an attack.
It was a credible fear as, in 1992 gunmen had cut a hole in the fence and got into one of their homes. No action was taken to either repair it or provide security for the members of the community even though it was known that the area was subject to regular attacks by loyalist paramilitaries.
On Monday 5 June 2023, in Banbridge Court House a number of these residents gave evidence before Coroner Fee. Their anger at the failure of the authorities to respond to their calls that day for assistance was palpable. They consider that this lack of action resulted in their worst fears being realised – the loss of life later that night.
One resident who had been involved in going door to door to notify residents earlier that day of the risk to their safety due to the hole in the ‘peace line’, was one of the first on the scene and tried to assist Mr Thompson as he was dying. In her evidence, she said she was called as a witness in the inquest as the police and NIO “did nothing” and the family and community still have not got answers from the authorities.
During the inquest hearing on Tuesday 6 June 2023, evidence was heard from a local resident who was a nurse. She outlined in her evidence how she rushed to administer first aid to Mr Thompson and the other injured victim when she heard the gunshots. She confirmed that while she was terrified she might also have been at risk, she acted on instinct and ran out to help the victims after calling for an ambulance. She outlined her frustration that the RUC failed to provide any assistance to her despite her asking for it, with only a paramedic soldier assisting in rendering first aid to Mr Thompson.
Senior counsel for Eugene Thompson, Ms Monye Anyadike-Danes KC, conveyed on behalf of him and his late mother, deep gratitude to these residents who risked their own personal safety while attending to Mr Thompson with the risk of further attack still possible.
The hearings will continue on Wednesday 7 June at Banbridge Court House, with further civilian witnesses to be heard. A date for the hearing of police, NIO, and Ministry of Defence witnesses is still to be provided.
The circumstances surrounding the death of (Liam) Paul ‘Topper’ Thompson:
Paul was killed at or about 11.30pm on 27 April 1994 in Springfield Park, West Belfast. He was 25 years old.
He was shot dead in a Grab-a-Cab taxi whilst being given a lift home by an employee, who was himself injured in the attack. His family considers that there is evidence to suggest that the calls to and from Grab-a-Cab were monitored by a scanning device used by loyalist paramilitaries and has since expressed concerns that the call for a ‘pick up’ in Springfield Park that evening may have been a deliberate decoy. The weapon used was a submachine gun that has been linked to 5 attempted killings over the period 1990-1993.
Prior to the Paul’s death, his family claim that he was subject to police harassment and believe that the RUC had evidence that the taxi firm ‘Grab-a-Cab’ was the subject of a credible threat.
Calls for an official public inquiry were refused, and a ‘Community Public Inquiry’ was held in September 1994, involving international jurists and lawyers, including Judge Andrew Somers, Gareth Pierce, Judge Dan Coburn, Richard O’Meara, Dr Ray Murphy, Tom Fox, and Angela Ritchie. Documents were reviewed, statements were taken, evidence heard, submissions received, and a report produced in 1995.
Please direct any media enquiries to Robyn Scott, Communications & Equality Coalition Coordinator, on email@example.com or 028 9031 6000.