Man welcomes UVF account of the 1974 sectarian murder of his father

Paul Crawford, son of John Crawford, says paramilitary organisation showed ‘goodwill and integrity’ while providing answers he had been seeking for decades

The son of a Catholic man murdered by loyalist paramilitaries almost 50 years ago has revealed how his engagement with an interlocutor delivered “full answers and full resolution” over the sectarian killing.

In what has been described as an unprecedented process, Paul Crawford met senior loyalist Winston Irvine more than 40 times over the past seven years after asking him to act on his behalf and seek information from the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

Father-of-nine John Crawford was shot dead in January 1974. The upholstery factory owner, who was from the Andersonstown area of west Belfast, had no political links. His body was found a short distance from his workshop on his daughter’s fourth birthday.

The killing was carried out by the UVF but was never claimed, as the paramilitary organisation was supposedly on ceasefire at the time.


Speaking at the launch of a Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) report on his father’s murder and the “victim-centred” process to discover the truth, Mr Crawford said he bore “no bitterness” towards the killers.

Although one person, James Glover, was convicted in 1978 – he was the driver –, Mr Crawford said he had spent decades searching for answers as to “what happened and why” after feeling “failed” by the inquest system, a police investigation and a Police Ombudsman report.

“After all these processes we still had many questions and I concluded these questions could only be answered by the UVF,” he said. “My father was an innocent man who was brutally murdered in a sectarian assassination for which no organisation ever claimed responsibility.”

It was by “pure chance” that Mr Crawford attended a QUB legacy-related public event in 2016, where Mr Irvine was on the panel and he spoke to him for the first time when he addressed him from the audience.

A series of face-to-face meetings and phone calls took place in which the pair agreed “ground rules” for the process.

“I told Winston Irvine the information I required, I assured him I was not seeking names. I asked what is perhaps the hardest question: ‘will you ask the UVF to explain their version of the whole event?’” Mr Crawford said.

“By the conclusion, I was delivered what I truly believe has been the greatest degree of resolution possible and I was able to verify all the information relayed. Goodwill, honesty and integrity was shown at all times throughout those meetings. As far as I am concerned this process has delivered absolutely full answers and full resolution of what I was seeking.”

Mr Crawford became emotional when he reflected on a “totally unexpected” moment when he met Mr Irvine at the end of the process.

“I was handed a report on UVF-headed paper confirming all that I had been told verbally. Winston gave that to me and left me on my own to digest it. This is the first time the UVF has ever done such a thing since they were formed in 1913. They’ve never before issued a written report or a ‘corporate narrative’, as it’s now called, to any victim.

“So that was a huge moment and to me it illustrated their goodwill and integrity because I hadn’t asked for that.”

He added, however, that he does “not believe in closure”.

“My father was brutally and unjustifiably taken from us and that is a wound that will never heal.”

Kieran McEvoy, a professor of law at QUB, wrote the report and praised Mr Crawford’s “courage and tenacity” in doing this “on his own steam”. But he insisted that “victims should not have to do that”.

“It is the responsibility of the state to provide such mechanisms and the state has failed Paul and thousands of other victims.”

Prof McEvoy added that the controversial UK government legacy bill proceeding through parliament will see the interlocutor process “binned”, which he said was part of the 2014 Stormont House Agreement drawn up between the UK government, Irish government and four of the North’s main political parties to deal with Troubles-related issues.

“Sadly the people who will suffer most as a result of the abandoning of this agreement in the current legacy legislation are those victims who could otherwise have gained information from armed groups as Paul has done.”

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham is Northern Correspondent of The Irish Times