'My feels for Peter's killers go beyond hate'
The widow of murdered Peter Butterly has said her feelings towards his killers go "beyond hatred".
Eithne Butterly spoke exclusively to the Herald after Edward McGrath (35) and Sharif Kelly (47) were convicted at the Special Criminal Court of his "callous murder".
McGrath, of Landale Lawns, Springfield, Tallaght, and Kelly, of Pinewood Green Road, Balbriggan, had both denied the murder of Mr Butterly at the Huntsman Inn, Gormanston, Co Meath.
Dissident republican Butterly (35) was killed on March 6, 2013 in what the court was told was an ambush.
Four men were originally charged with the shooting. One of them, David Cullen, subsequently turned state witness, and his murder charge was dropped.
The fourth man, Dean Evans (24), of Grange Park Rise, Raheny, Dublin, failed to turn up for the trial.
It was alleged in court that Evans was the man who pulled the trigger, but the trial proceeded in his absence as gardai continue to search for him.
It was the second trial for McGrath and Kelly after the first collapsed in January 2015 after 55 days.
In response to the verdicts, Butterly's widow Eithne said she could never forgive his killers.
"Forgiveness is never a word I can use with them. I can move on with my life and the lives of our children without forgiving them," she said.
Ms Butterly said there were no winners in the case. "Yes, there are guilty verdicts, but Peter is not coming home," she said. "These men have killed him and taken him away from his family and destroyed their own families' lives also.
"Other people will move on with their lives, and that is only natural, but we will be left in the same situation, so in that sense, although we are obviously happy that these men have been found guilty of Peter's murder, there is an anti-climax to it as well.
"We could never be sure of a guilty verdict. You never do know. There's always a chance they could be found not guilty, but it's great to see these men being walked out the door to a prison instead of freedom.
"When the first trial collapsed they were released on bail for two whole years because the court ruled it was their 'legal right'. But what about Peter's legal rights? They took all his rights away when they took his life."
Ms Butterly had a message for Evans, who disappeared days before he was due to face trial, warning him that he would not escape justice for ever.
"My message is, 'You're next. You will be caught. You did the prosecution a favour'," she said.
"You think you're a brave man with a balaclava and a gun, but you're just a coward pumped up on steroids."
Delivering judgment yesterday, presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt described the murder as "callous, brutal and premeditated", with Kelly and McGrath "performing their assigned roles".
During the 31-day trial, the court heard evidence that the car used in the shooting, a stolen silver Toyota Corolla, was being watched by members of the National Surveillance Unit.
Gardai observed the Corolla drive past the Huntsman Inn before making a U-turn and returning to the pub, entering the car park.
The driver, McGrath, was wearing a black wig, with Evans "crouched" behind him. The window was rolled down.
Witnesses then reported hearing gunshots.
One woman, who lived opposite the pub, saw a man holding a small black handgun.
A student waiting at a nearby bus stop saw two people sprinting away from a car.
One was chasing the other. The second man raised an arm and shot the first man.
The court was satisfied, Mr Justice Hunt said, that Butterly was "shot in the car park by means of a gun fired by Dean Evans".
Evans, he added, was driven to and from the scene by McGrath.
"It was an ambush by people who expected Mr Butterly would be present in the car park," he said, adding that the shooting had required a "considerable degree of forethought".
Ms Butterly said she had been married to her husband for 17 years, and he was buried on their wedding anniversary on March 16. The couple had three children together.
"He was a very funny man and a very hard-working farmer, always up at the crack of dawn," she said.
"He could do anything around the house as well. He'd have the fire cleaned out first thing in the morning and would make the dinners if I wasn't around.
"Peter was a devoted husband and we were the best of friends.
"He was devoted to his children too and got great enjoyment out of them. He was a proud dad.
"He's been denied ever meeting his grandson who has been born within the last year."