The family of murdered Tom Oliver have been given fresh hope that justice will be served as detectives from Operation Kenova made a fresh appeal for information on the 30th anniversary of his death.
The 43-year-old farmer’s body was discovered in a layby at the junction of Tate Road and Newtown Road, Belleeks in Co Armagh in the early hours of 20 July 1991. He had been shot in the head six times. He had last been seen alive at about 1am the previous day when he was attending to a cow on his farmland.
Jon Boutcher, the former chief constable of Bedfordshire who heads Operation Kenova, is investigating a number of unsolved murders in Northern Ireland and has been working on the Tom Oliver case since 2019. Since then, he and his team have recovered new DNA evidence from Tom’s clothes and have taken a significant number of new statements while working with An Garda Siochana which they hope will help them find the person responsible for Tom Oliver’s murder.
On Monday Chief Constable Jon Boutcher made a fresh appeal for information around the father of seven’s death.
“This is a truly horrific case in which Tom, a father-of-seven, appears to have been effectively executed. Tom’s family have endured three decades of unthinkable torment of not knowing the truth of what happened and who was responsible. I want to end this pain by giving them the answers they so desperately need and I would appeal to anyone who can help us get to the truth to come forward.
“We have made good progress with the investigation including recovering new DNA evidence from forensic testing of items recovered during the initial investigation. But we still need more information to bring those responsible to justice.
“This case has had a long and lasting impact on the community and we want to bring some closure for them, and most importantly for Tom’s family.
“We would particularly like to speak to anyone who has knowledge of what happened to Tom or saw anything unusual on the 19th July 1991.”
Detectives are particularly keen to trace a woman who called police at about 7.40pm on the evening of 19 July 1991.
Mr Boutcher said: “Police received an anonymous phone call from a woman who said they had seen a Ford Orion at the location where Thomas was found. That woman has never been traced and we are extremely keen to speak to her. I understand she may have concerns about coming forward but I would reassure her that any contact would be treated sensitively and in confidence. I would appeal to anyone who remembers seeing a Ford Orion in suspicious circumstances in that area at the time.”
Mr Oliver’s blue Ford Mark IV Cortina, registration 952 BZH, was found at 11am on 19 July in a field at Feehan’s Lane, Castlecarragh, about 400 yards from his farmyard alongside his tractor and bailer.
The keys were in the ignition. The vehicle was initially seized but it is not known what has happened to it.
Mr Boutcher added: “We also want to speak to anyone who has any information about Tom’s Ford Cortina and its whereabouts today.”
Operation Kenova was set up to examine possible criminal offences relating to, or connected with, the alleged agent referred to as ‘Stakeknife’.
A statement from the Oliver family released through their solicitors stated that they finally have hope that the net is closing in on Tom’s murderer.
“The 30th anniversary brings with it mixed emotions for the Oliver family. In those 30 years the family 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. Operation Kenova has now confirmed that fresh evidence has come to light which includes fresh DNA evidence. This is coupled with a focused investigation with specific lines of enquiry – not just nationally, but internationally.
“After 30 years, there is now light at the end of a very dark tunnel. The family today seek to call upon those with information to come forward and assist Jon Boutcher with his enquiries. 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,” read the statement.