By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST – A 23-year-old man appeared in Belfast Magistrates Court Monday accused of murdering the three young Quinn brothers – Richard, Mark and Jason – in the July 12 firebombing of their home in Ballymoney. The RUC is still questioning a number of others.
Thomas Robert Garfield Gilmore, a salesman who lives on Finvoy Road in Ballymoney, was remanded in custody for two weeks on charges of murdering the Quinn boys.
The three died after a petrol bomb was hurled into their home at 4:30 on the morning during the height of the Drumcree crisis.
Loyalists were involved in petrol bombings and widespread intimidation of Catholics and RUC officers’ families during the 11-day crisis caused by Orange Order protests over the rerouting of a march away from the Nationalist Garvaghy Road are in Portadown.
A detective chief inspector told the five-minute court hearing in Belfast that the defendant had replied “definitely not guilty” when the three charges were put to him at the Strandtown police station in East Belfast.
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Asked if the man had a criminal record, he replied “no” and asked if he was satisfied that the person or persons actively involved in the firebombing was in court, the detective said, “It would be wrong of me to comment at this stage.”
Gilmore, who has spikey fair hair, wore a gray T-shirt and black jeans to the hearing. He did not speak.
Meanwhile, in a television interview last week, Chrissie Quinn, the mother of the three boys, gave a harrowing account about their deaths.
Quinn said she felt guilty for remaining in the town when she was aware of threats being made against Catholics. She said, however, that the boys liked living on the estate and had missed their friends when she moved to England for a time.
Recalling the firebombing, she said she woke from her sleep to find the house full of smoke. She went into her sons’ bedrooms but could not find them, then left the house believing they were already outside.
Asked if she believed the Orange protest at Drumcree was linked to the boys’ deaths, she said it had “everything to do with it.” She now believes her old home should be demolished and turned into a memorial for the three boys.
Quinn said she will not be leaving Northern Ireland, because she wants to stay close to where her children are buried. Lee, her eldest, who was away from home, staying with his grandmother when the fire broke out, cried himself to sleep when he heard the tragic news.