Three serving Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldiers were arrested and questioned about the UVF murders of four men at Boyle's Bar in Cappagh, Co Tyrone in 1991, according to a draft report by the North's Historical Enquiries Team (HET).
Siobhán Nugent, the sister of one of the victims, said that to have this stated in an official report was a “breakthrough” for the families.
Her brother Malcolm Nugent, 20, Dwayne O'Donnell, 17, and John Quinn, 23 – who were all members of the IRA – died when loyalist gunmen opened fire on their car outside the bar in March 1991. A man inside the bar, 52-year-old Thomas Armstrong, was also killed. None of the victims are believed to have been the intended targets.
There have been long-standing claims of security force collusion in the attack.
The HET report into the killing of Mr O’Donnell was obtained by the families of the victims this week.
According to the report, which has been seen by The Irish Times, intelligence was received some time after the attack “which named three serving members of the UDR as responsible for Dwayne’s murder”.
“The same men were also named as responsible for other murders,” it stated.
The three men and a “close associate” were arrested in December 1991 “and interviewed over several days in relation to the Cappagh murders”. They were released without charge.
Their arrests were the result of a joint investigation by the British Army and the RUC which "examined all the available intelligence relating to several murders and attempted murders between 1988 and 1991".
This was carried out “as a result of raised concerns of security service collusion in east Tyrone”, the report stated.
Two other men – one of whom is believed to have been then leader of the UVF in mid-Ulster, Billy Wright – were arrested on the night of the killings and released without charge.
The report links two VZ58 assault rifles to the Cappagh murders and to a total of 11 other "incidents" between 1988 and 1994, including the UVF murders of Charles and Theresa Fox in the Moy in Co Tyrone in 1992.
Research published in 2016 by the Belfast-based victims group Relatives for Justice linked the weapons to a total of 18 murders and three attempted murders in the east Tyrone and Armagh area.
Ms Nugent said the families “always knew” the attack on Boyle’s Bar “had all the hallmarks of collusion” and they would now consider the contents of the report carefully.
“Obviously for the four families this is very important,” she said, “but we’re a small, tight-knit community.
“It was a family-run bar, that family was affected, and the people who were in the bar that night and who lifted the bodies were affected, too. It’ll be closure for us all,” she said.
The HET report concluded that the review “has not uncovered any potential new lines of inquiry” and said that with the passage of time “it is unlikely that new investigative opportunities will arise”.