29/10/2002

Channel 4 report alleges police received four Omagh bomb warnings

A special report by Channel 4 has claimed that the RUC received four warnings prior to the Omagh bomb and not two – as the police have maintained.

The report, which will screened tonight, (Tuesday, October 29) is based on what the programme-makers describe as "hitherto secret documents that spell out the true detail of what police knew and when in advance of the Omagh bomb. And the chaotic investigation that followed."

The police investigation into the Real IRA's bomb in Omagh on August 15 1998, in which 29 people died and over 300 were injured, has been widely criticised, not least by families of the victims.

Channel 4's new allegations are based on Special Branch and MI5 documents corroborating claims that two further warnings had been received. They claim to have a memo from a "Det. Insp. Special Branch N. Region (west)" classified as 'secret' and dated Sept 5 2000. It says Special Branch were aware that previous to August 15 in 1998 "dissidents are planning an operation; dissidents have incendiary devices for use against commercial targets".

So far the police have said that they received two warnings prior to the bombing. One came from a low category informant, known as Kevin Fulton, who told his CID handlers that a bomb attack was imminent but did not identify the target.

Following this revelation, first published by the Sunday People in July last year, then Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan denied that Fulton's information was ignored, saying that it was "checked and found to be without any foundation whatsoever".

The Police Ombudsman in a report into the investigation following the newspaper allegation concluded it was unlikely the Omagh bomb could have been avoided if the information was acted upon.

According to the Ombudsman's report, the second warning was made during an anonymous telephone call which was received by the RUC on August 4 1998 – 11 days before the atrocity – claiming that an "unspecified attack would be made on police in Omagh on 15 August 1998".

Despite the questions marks over the nature of the inquiry, the Police Ombudsman concluded that "it is not possible to say what impact other action between 4 August 1998 and 15 August 1998 would have had, or whether action other than that taken by Special Branch could have prevented the Omagh Bomb".

Channel 4 claims their new information on the threats and other documents reveals that "muddle and confusion" was endemic in the investigation.

The police's own review of the Omagh investigation, begun in March 2000, was critical of the way in which it had been carried out. The most serious criticisms highlighted "significant and fundamental errors in the investigation" and "many failures in the management and leadership of the Omagh Investigation".

A new management board was brought in to oversee the investigation in February and police maintain that they remain determined to bring those responsible to justice.

Fifty-one-year old building contractor Colm Murphy is the only person to have so far been jailed in connection with the bombing.

(GMcG)

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