22/07/2021

Ombudsman Identifies 'Collusive Behaviours' Over Murder Of Damien Walsh

The Police Ombudsman, Marie Anderson, has identified significant investigative failures by the RUC in relation to the murder of 17-year-old Damien Walsh in 1993, as well as evidence of 'collusive behaviours' by police.

Damien was shot dead at the Dairy Farm complex in west Belfast on 25 March 1993 by members of the UDA/UFF. The complex was under security force surveillance at the time. No one has been charged or convicted in relation to the attack, in which another man was injured.

Mrs Anderson said her investigation of a complaint from Damien's mother, Mrs Marian Walsh, found no evidence that police were actively involved, had advance knowledge of the attack, or could have stopped the gunmen before the murder.

However, she said police failed to capitalise on a series of significant investigative opportunities, including failing to arrest suspects, not conducting searches of their homes and failing to ensure that important forensic enquiries were undertaken.

Mrs Anderson also identified "collusive police behaviours" such as failing to share important intelligence with the senior investigating officer (SIO) leading the police murder investigation, and failing to advise him that the complex had been under security force surveillance.

The Police Ombudsman added that police made "a deliberate decision" to disregard intelligence about the threat posed by 'C Company' of the UDA/UFF at the time. She said that by stopping their surveillance of the group for an eight day period starting three days before Damien's murder, the RUC allowed the group to operate without the same "levels of constraint" that previously applied.
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'C Company' murdered two people and attempted to kill two others during this period. Mrs Anderson said the RUC's failure during this time to reassess the decision to remove surveillance on the group "constituted collusive behaviour."

The findings are set out in a 108-page report which deals with the issues raised by Mrs Walsh, who expressed concerns about the police investigation and alleged collusion between police and the murderers.

The surveillance operation at the Dairy Farm complex had been conducted in anticipation of the IRA moving fertiliser intended for use in bombs. The fertiliser was stored in a unit two doors away from the coal bunker unit in which Damien was working.

"There was no indication that Damien was specifically targeted," said Mrs Anderson. "The then Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, stated at the time that Damien was not involved in the paramilitaries and was completely innocent."

Welcoming the report, Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey said: "I welcome the publication of this report from the Police Ombudsman which found that collusion was a major factor in the UDA murder of Damien Walsh at the Dairy Farm in 1993.

"His family have campaigned for 27 years with dignity and determination and this report will shed light on what happened.

"The report highlights that information was provided to the loyalist death squad responsible by the RUC, surveillance of those involved had been lifted ahead of the murder and that the British army had the Diary Farm under surveillance when the attack took place.

"This is further evidence of the British government's policy of collusion with loyalist death squads in the murder of Irish citizens.

"This report will provide access to information and truth to the Walsh family but there are many other families waiting for the publication of Police Ombudsman reports and it is essential those pending are published.

"We will continue to stand by the Walsh family and all those seeking access to truth and justice."

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