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Investigation into IRA murder of Tom Oliver uncovers new DNA evidence

The farmer was shot dead in July 1991.

Eugene Oliver, son of Tom Oliver, during a fresh appeal for information relating to the murder of his father.
Eugene Oliver, son of Tom Oliver, during a fresh appeal for information relating to the murder of his father.
Image: Arthur Carron/PA Images

Updated Jul 19th 2021, 2:40 PM

A FRESH INVESTIGATION in the IRA abduction and murder of farmer Tom Oliver has uncovered new DNA evidence, which investigators hope will lead to a prosecution.

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 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 Oliver since April 2019.

“In that time, working with the Gardaí, 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,” Boucher said.

He appealed for information about a grey Ford car that was seen at around about 7.40 that evening near Belleeks. Detectives believe the car was used to transport Oliver’s body to where it was discovered in Armagh.

Boucher also appealed to a woman who called the Garda information line that night and explained what she saw. 

“We desperately want that lady to contact us,” he added.

Boucher said that people in the community “know what happened to Thomas that day”, and urged them to come forward and assist the investigation.  

“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.”

Boucher also appealed for information about the whereabouts of Oliver’s car, a blue Mark 4 Cortina that was recovered by Gardaí, but later went missing.

“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.

Their investigation crosses both sides of the border and leads have taken them as far as Australia.

Boucher said his team has pursued every line of inquiry, including the names of every individual associated with Oliver’s murder.

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“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.

“Let’s not be in any doubt, this is a criminal investigation and when you conduct a criminal investigation, you throw the kitchen sink at it to seek evidence, to prosecute those responsible for murder, which is the most serious crime that anybody can commit.”

He said he hopes the new DNA evidence will help them either prosecute somebody or help understand what happened to the farmer.

Family solicitor Darragh Mackin said the 30th anniversary of Oliver’s murder brings mixed emotions for his relatives, who have grieved “in silence without any meaningful investigation”. 

“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,” Mackin said. 

“After 30 years, there’s now light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

“The family today I seek to call upon those with information to come forward and assist John Boucher with his inquiries.

“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.”

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