A fresh investigation in the IRA abduction and murder of farmer Tom Oliver has uncovered new DNA evidence that investigators hope will lead to a prosecution.
Mr Oliver, an innocent farmer from the Cooley Peninsula in Co Louth, was abducted and shot by the IRA in July 1991.
The body of the father-of-seven was dumped across the Border in Co Armagh.
His son Eugene, at the age of 13, went looking for his father after he failed to return from calving a cow and discovered his car in a field with the keys in the ignition.
Jon Boutcher, the former chief constable of Bedfordshire who heads Operation Kenova, is investigating a number of unsolved murders in Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the spot where Mr Oliver’s car was found, the former police chief said they have recovered new DNA evidence that he hopes will “significantly assist” their investigation.
The team has been investigating the murder of Mr Oliver since April 2019.
“In that time, working with the Garda, we’ve taken a significant number of new statements, and I’m pleased to say, using the techniques available to us today, we’ve recovered new DNA evidence that I am hoping will significantly assist us and this incredibly brave family in understanding what happened to Thomas that day,” Mr Boutcher said.
“I’ve got a couple of requests that I want to make today.
“Firstly, when Thomas was taken, a vehicle, a grey Ford, was seen at around about 7.40 that evening near Belleeks.
“We believe that vehicle deposited Tom’s body. A female called the information line for the police, and explained what she saw. We desperately want that lady to contact us,” Mr Boutcher said.
“I also know that people in this community who live around here know what happened to Thomas that day. They know who was involved. And I need them to come and talk to us.
“At the time, and I understand this, and the family understand this, they would have felt that they weren’t able to come forward, that it wasn’t safe to come forward.
“I want to reassure them that they can now come forward. It is certainly safe to come forward and it would be right to come forward. I will deal with any information that they have with the utmost confidentiality and care,” Mr Boutcher said.
“Please help us help this family finally understand what happened to Tom and who was responsible.”
Mr Oliver’s car, a blue Mark 4 Cortina, was recovered by the Garda but later went missing.
Mr Boutcher said he wants to know what happened to the car and appealed to the public to come forward with information.
“If you are local, are a garage, you would have known almost certainly because of this community spirit, Tom Oliver’s car, and if you know what happened to that Cortina please also let me know,” he added.
The investigation crosses both sides of the Border and leads have taken them as far as Australia.
Mr Boutcher said his team has pursued every line of inquiry, including the names of every individual associated with Mr Oliver’s murder.
“We have an understanding of the people who were involved in what happened to Tom, and at the conclusion of this investigation, I look forward to sitting down with the family and explaining what we understand happened,” he added.
“We all know with legacy cases, and I accept and when I began these investigations, I knew that prosecutions would be the exception, they would be rare.
“But that doesn’t mean that you do not investigate these cases with potential prosecutions in mind.
“These families have got a right, morally and legally, and we have a responsibility to give them the hope that if we do get sufficient evidence to achieve the threshold of beyond all reasonable doubt required for prosecution.
“They have got the right to expect us to do that.”
Family solicitor Darragh Mackin said the 30th anniversary of Mr Oliver’s murder brings mixed emotions for his relatives.
“In those 30 years, the family have grieved in silence without any meaningful investigation,” Mr Mackin said.
“There has been a catalogue of failed investigations which have been ineffective from their inception.
“After 30 years of a dignified silence, the family now have hope that the net is closing on those responsible for Tom’s murder.
“I seek to call upon those with information to come forward and assist John Boucher with his inquiries,” Mr Mackin said.
“Tom’s case is the prime example on why there can be no limitation in time for investigating a murder. The family’s grief has no limitation, and neither can truth, justice, or accountability.” – PA