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The BBC's Peter Hunt in Belfast
"Police keeping an open mind"
 real 28k

Sunday, 20 February, 2000, 18:14 GMT
Murder victims 'had no terror links'

Forensic officers at the murder scene Forensic officers at the scene of the murder

Police in Northern Ireland have said they are not connecting the victims of a double murder with any terrorist organisation.

The bodies of David McIlwaine, 18, and Andrew Robb, 19, both from Portadown, were discovered on an isolated road in County Armagh on Saturday.

A number of people were arrested in connection with the killings, but were released "unconditionally" on Sunday night, police said.

Preliminary post mortem examination results found the two men died from multiple stab wounds.

Det Insp Alan Todd: Men involved in fight
There had been speculation that the murders were linked to a loyalist paramilitary feud.

That motive has not been totally ruled out by police, but they are pursuing other lines of inquiry.

Detective Inspector Alan Todd, who is involved in the murder inquiry, said Sunday's arrests were not made under anti-terrorist legislation.

"To the discerning observer, they should draw their own conclusions from that," he said.

He said a number of disturbances had occurred in the area and the victims may have been involved.

"We know the two men were alive in Tandragee at around 1.30am yesterday (Saturday) and that they had been involved, either directly or indirectly, in a number of scuffles in the town.

"Subsequent to that, we have not been able to account for their movements until the time their bodies were discovered."

The paramilitary splinter group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), issued a statement denying the two men had any links to its organisation.

Paul McIlwaine: Appeal for information
Mr McIlwaine's father, Paul, also denied his son had any connection with loyalist paramilitaries but had been "in the wrong place at the wrong time".

He said the two young men had been "horrifically, brutally murdered" and appealed for information about the killings.

"The people who did this, there's blood on their hands, there's blood on their clothes. They have come in with it and people know, and the people who know should say.

"If you have any sort of conscience at all, please give some information."

Victims found on road

The victims were found at the side of the Druminure Road, two miles from Tandragee on Saturday morning by a woman taking her children to dancing class.

Mr Robb's uncle, Robert Thornberry, denied media speculation that his nephew's murder was linked to drugs.

"I can tell them now, that Andrew had nothing to do with any drug pushers," he added.

Mr Robb had been the father of a nine-month-old daughter.

Police said the victims were fully clothed when their bodies were found several yards apart on the road. They had suffered severe injuries.

Andrew Robb pictured with his girlfriend
The indications were that Mr Robb, from Festival Road in Portadown, and Mr McIlwaine from The Laurels area of the town, were murdered in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The area remained sealed off by police on Sunday, while further forensic examination were carried out.

A police spokeswoman said the men had spent part of Friday night at a nightclub in Tandragee called The Spot.

Murder condemned

The murder was condemned by local politicians.

Democratic Unionist Party assembly member Paul Berry, who lives in Tandragee said it was a "very difficult time" for the families.

The people who did this, there's blood on their hands, there's blood on their clothes. They have come in with it and people know, and the people that know should say.
Paul McIlwaine
Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy expressed "shock and disgust" at what had happened.

"Obviously, we will wait and see what emerges from the RUC investigation but this is a terrible crime," he said.

"Everybody in Northern Ireland thought we had left these types of incidents behind and it will send a chill down people's spines to see an event of this nature in a quiet country area like this.

"I have no doubt that local people will be shocked and horrified by what has happened."

Police are appealing for anyone with information about the murders to contact them at Portadown.

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