THE families of two unarmed IRA men shot dead by the SAS nearly 20 years ago are to take their case to Europe claiming there was no proper police investigation into their killings.

Martin McCaughey (23) and Dessie Grew (37) were shot dead by SAS soldiers at a farm building near Loughgall, Co Armagh, in October 1990.

Although three AK47s were recovered close to the shed, the two republicans were unarmed when they were killed.

Postmortem examinations revealed that Grew had been shot 48 times and McCaughey 12 times.

The shootings became part of a series of unarmed security force killings known as ‘shoot to kill’ after it emerged that the shed had been under surveillance and that police had prior intelligence that the two IRA men were due to visit.

Since the early 1990s the Grew and McCaughey families have mounted a series of legal challenges over the RUC investigation into the killings and the failure to hand over intelligence documents to allow inquests to be held into the deaths.

In May 2001 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered the British government to pay £10,000 each to the families of 10 IRA men shot dead by the security forces after the court ruled that police had not properly investigated their deaths.

In November 2007 the ECHR ruled that the RUC had also failed to properly investigate allegations of security force collusion in the killing of eight Co Armagh men.

One month later the House of Lords ruled that all police intelligence files relating to the Grew and McCaughey killings should be disclosed to the coroner to allow full inquests to take place.

However, it remains the longest outstanding inquest in Northern Ireland’s legal history.

While a preliminary hearing is scheduled to take place next month, the families say they have no confidence that full inquests will be allowed to take place any time in the near future.

It has now emerged that Martin McCaughey’s mother Brigid and Dessie Grew’s father Patrick have now launched a legal challenge at the ECHR, claiming that there was no proper police investigation.

Confirming that legal papers had been lodged with the ECHR, Fearghal Shiels of Madden & Finucane Solicitors, said: “The families contend that the state has clearly breached its legal obligations to conduct an effective official investigation into the deaths of Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew.

“The RUC officers who investigated the killings lacked the requisite degree of independence from the undercover soldiers involved in the shooting.

“No attempt was made to seriously challenge the excessive force used, involving the firing of at least 72 rounds, and in circumstances where one of the men was shot twice on the ground as he was dying or already dead.

“There was clearly no meaningful attempt made by the RUC to explore the credibility of the accounts provided, failing even to re-interview the soldiers in light of significant discrepancies in their accounts.”

A PSNI spokesman said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case while legal proceedings were ongoing.