The families of three Scottish soldiers executed by the IRA have told of their fury after a suspect died last week and escaped justice – two years after The Mail on Sunday tracked him down.
Anthony ‘Dutch’ Doherty, 71, died in Dublin almost 51 years to the day after he allegedly murdered off-duty soldiers John and Joseph McCaig, who were brothers aged 17 and 18, and Dougald McCaughey, 23, in Belfast.
Doherty was the only suspect arrested for being part of a Provisional IRA team which lured the soldiers to their deaths from a Belfast pub on March 10, 1971.
John and Joseph, from Ayr, and Dougald, from Glasgow, were killed by the side of a country road with gunshots to the back of the head.
Joseph McCaig (left), 18, and his brother John McCaig, 17, of the Royal Highland Fusiliers, who were both murdered in Belfast by the IRA in 1971
It is thought the IRA may have planned the murders for days with two attractive women used as a ‘honeytrap’ to entice the soldiers out of Kelly’s Cellar pub with promises of sex.
Dougald had briefly called his aunt in Glasgow from the pub, who urged him to ‘watch himself’. It was the last time the men were heard from.
Doherty was arrested and confessed to the murders while being interrogated by detectives in 1971 but escaped from jail soon afterwards and went on the run.
The IRA man was one of four key suspects identified by police. It was believed he had died until the Mail on Sunday tracked him down in Dublin in February 2020.
After he was exposed, the Public Service of Northern Ireland launched a review into the case.
Dougald McCaughey, 23, of Glasgow, also of the Royal Highland Fusiliers, was murdered alongside the brothers in a country lane north of Belfast on March 10, 1971
But it’s understood they took no action and Doherty died last week at his house surrounded by loved ones. The families of the soldiers are furious that Doherty was not brought to justice and accused the Home Office of failing to honour promises to meet them.
David McCaughey, Dougald’s cousin, said: ‘We have been badly let down. This coward is dead and we have been robbed of the chance to learn more.’
Kris McGurk, on behalf of the Three Soldiers campaign group, said: ‘This was a suspect in a brutal murder but the authorities allowed him to escape.
‘The only words I can find to describe how they reacted to information of Doherty being alive are negligent and shameful.
A picture identified as Anthony ‘Dutch’ Doherty, a chief suspect in the soldiers’ murders in 1971, who has died in Dublin
A memorial marks the spot where the three soldiers lost their lives on a country lane just north of Belfast on March 10, 1971
‘A police force presented with proof of a suspect and a home address, yet which does nothing, is no longer a force that can be trusted to uphold the law.’
The three Royal Highland Fusiliers were the first off-duty soldiers to be killed by the IRA. Their deaths led to an escalation of violence in The Troubles.
A team of detectives identified four suspects, including Doherty, Patrick McAdorey, gunned down by security forces in 1971, IRA man Henry Canavan, who died in 2015, and Patrick O’Kane, a former British paratrooper linked to a number of IRA atrocities, who died in 2009.
But fresh evidence unearthed by the Thee Soldiers legal team in 2020 suggested up to ten people were involved in the plot.
No one has ever been charged or convicted of the murders.
Lawyer Matt Jury said: ‘Despite our investigations locating Doherty, unearthing new evidence and identifying at least one new witness and possible suspect, the state has ignored the families’ repeated pleas for justice.
‘The Home Office promised the families a meeting over two years ago. That meeting never happened. Now it’s too late.’
A Home Office spokeswoman said: ‘We have received a letter from the families’ legal representatives and will respond as soon as possible.’
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk