22/01/2007

Report catalogues murder prosecution failures

The Police Ombudsman's inquiry into to role of paid police informers in 15 loyalist paramilitary murders has catalogued a list of failures to bring prosecutions due to missing and obstructed evidence due to Special Branch involvement in the investigations.

Mrs Nuala O'Loan began by examining the murder of Raymond McCord Junior, 22, who was found beaten to death in a quarry on the northern outskirts of Belfast in November 1997.

Information held by the police, and corroborated from a number of sources, indicates that Informant 1, who was in prison at the time, ordered his murder and that another man, who was on leave from the prison, carried it out. Informant 1 and his associates were eventually arrested for the murder, questioned and released without charge.

The Police Ombudsman has established that there were a number of failures with the murder investigation which may have significantly reduced the possibility of anyone ever being prosecuted for the crime. They include a failure to seize a suspects clothing from prison and the destruction of exhibits, including the car believed to have been used in the attack.

The Police Ombudsman found no evidence that police knew what was going to happen to Mr McCord, nor that they could have warned him or his family about the danger.

The report also refers to the death of Peter McTasney, who was murdered at Bawnmore in Belfast on February 24 1991. Later that year, when police were interviewing suspects about an attempted murder, which Informant 1 had told them about and was believed to have been involved in, they established that the gun used was the one used to kill Mr McTasney and was linked to a series of attempted murders.

Informant 1 was arrested and interviewed a total of 19 times. His 'handlers' conducted the main interviews. One of those handlers has said they 'babysat' him though the interviews and that notes were completed which did not reflect what happened in the interview. Informant I was subsequently released without charge. A combined file for the murder of Mr McTasney and the earlier attempted murder was prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Two men were subsequently convicted. Special Branch, with the agreement of a Deputy Assistant Chief Constable, did not disclose to the DPP the involvement of a police agent.

Mrs O'Loan also referred to the murder of taxi-driver Sharon McKenna, who was shot dead on January 17 1993.

A Detective Sergeant and a Detective Constable have both said Haddock admitted to being one of the gunmen involved in the murder.

Informant 1 was arrested, detained for six days, and interviewed 37 times. Some of those interviews were conducted by his 'handler' and he was subsequently released without charge. No one has ever been charged with the murder.

Sean McParland was shot on February 17 1994 and died later from his injuries. Police Ombudsman investigators have seen information which indicated that two days before the murder, police received information that someone was to be killed the next morning. They mounted a response at the relevant time and place during which they saw Informant 1. Later that day they received information that Informant 1 had been involved in the planned attack but that it was called off when police were seen in the area. Mr McParland was shot the following day.

Police Ombudsman investigators have seen additional information in which Informant 1 names another police informant as having carried out the murder. He also admits to having had an involvement himself.

Gary Convie and Eamon Fox were shot dead on a building site in Belfast on May 17 1994.

Haddock was a suspect for the murder and was arrested. The gunman who carried out the murders was said to have a 'goatee' beard. Informant 1 when arrested had a 'goatee' beard but was allowed to shave it off while in custody. No identity parade was held. He was released without charge.

Gerard Brady was shot on June 17 1994. Police have intelligence which links Informant I and another police informant to this murder. Ballistic tests have also linked the gun used to Informant 1 and other police informants.

John Harbinson was beaten to death on May 18 1997. Special Branch had a significant amount of high-grade intelligence about the four main suspects for this murder, including Informant 1. They did not pass this information on to the police officers investigating the murder.

In relation to terrorism in the Republic, Informant 1 gave police information about a planned bomb attack in Dublin and helped them ensure the plan was aborted. Special Branch officers were instructed not to record the details.

Haddock later gave police information about another 'high profile' attack on a republican target and told them he had received the explosives to carry it out. The police made safe the explosives and returned them to him, but did not mount an operation to see what the terrorists had planned or to arrest them.

Within two weeks there was a bomb attack on the Sinn Fein offices in Monaghan. Intelligence held by police implicates police informants, including Informant 1. None of this information was passed to the Garda.

(EF/SP)

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