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Thursday, 6 April, 2000, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Judgment reserved in Quinn murder appeal

The Quinn brothers perished in their home
Judgment has been reserved in an appeal being brought by a man jailed for the murders of three young brothers during the controversial Drumcree marching dispute two years ago.

Garfield Gilmour from Finvoy Road in Ballymoney, County Antrim was found guilty of the murders of the Quinn brothers on 12 July 1998. His appeal against the conviction was heard on Thursday.

Ten-year-old Richard, Mark, nine, and eight-year-old Jason died in a petrol bomb attack on their home at Carnany Park in Ballymoney, County Antrim.

Gilmour's lawyer Arthur Harvey, said that deaths from petrol bombs were "extremely rare".

The murder would be "unique in its wickedness even by Northern Ireland standards" if the intent of those who carried out the attack had been to kill, he said.

Mr Harvey told the court that Gilmour had only driven the prime movers, and did not know what they were planning until moments before the attack.

The Quinn family home
The Quinn family home
His comments were challenged by Mr Justice Coghlin - sitting with the Northern Ireland Lord Chief Justice Sir Robert Carswell and Lord Justice Nicholson - as "an extraordinary statement".

The brothers, who lived with their Catholic mother, Chrissie, on the predominantely Protestant estate, had been trapped upstairs when the house was engulfed in smoke and flames.

When the attack was mounted, their mother, a friend and a teenage girl escaped the flames, but the children's bodies were later recovered by fire-fighters.

The children died during a week of heightened tension in Northern Ireland.

There had been a confrontation between Orangemen and the security forces at Drumcree, outside Portadown in County Armagh.

The Orangemen had been protesting against an order banning them from parading down the mainly Catholic and nationalist Garvaghy Road in the town.

Gilmour claimed that he was on the periphery of a loyalist group and agreed to act as the driver to two other men and to take them to the Carnany estate.

But he insisted in statements to police that he did not know until the last moment that the petrol bombing was going to take place.

A play area is dedicated to the boys
Mr Harvey said there was no evidence in the trial to suggest his client knew in advance what was going to happen.

He said there had been no evidence that the petrol bomb - made from a one-and-three-quarter litre whisky bottle - had been carried in his car to the Quinn's home.

A "significant number" of petrol bombs used in civil disorder against the police had been recovered in the area before the attack, he added.

Mr Harvey said the trial judge, Lord Justice McCollum, had drawn "certain inferences" during the case, including from the fact that Gilmour did not give evidence in his own defence.

He said his client was not one of the principals in the attack on the home.

Two other men named during his trial were never charged.

"I would submit there was not sufficient evidence to hold that he aided and abetted the actual crime," said Mr Harvey.

He said the appeal judges needed to decide whether the defendant was guilty of any offence, other than of assisting an offender, and whether this was an alternative to murder.

The appeal is expected to last two days.

A play area and garden of remembrance were officially opened in memory of the victims after the family home was demolished.

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See also:

27 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Play area dedicated to Quinn boys
18 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Order in murder inquest call
14 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Murder conviction appeal date
29 Oct 99 | Northern Ireland
The murders that shocked Northern Ireland
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