30/10/2007

Security Forces Cleared Over UVF Slaying

The security forces didn’t collude in the UVF killing of two Co Armagh brothers in 1993.

However, the Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan did rule that a police investigation into the murder of Gerard Cairns (20) and his 18-year-old brother, Rory, was flawed and cut short.

The brothers were gunned down at their family home in Bleary, near Lurgan, on October 28, 1993. Two masked men burst into the family home hours after the family had celebrated the 11th birthday of Gerard and Rory's sister, Roisin.

No one was ever convicted of the murder which was carried out during one of the bloodiest weeks of the Troubles.

The Cairns family lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman, claiming that the RUC and Army had prior knowledge of the attack and had allowed a clear path for the murderers with a higher than usual security presence in the area.

The family also alleged that police had failed to carry out a proper investigation and had failed to keep the family updated on its progress.

During their investigation, Police Ombudsman investigators examined police documentation spanning nine years. They assessed intelligence relating to the murder, obtained maps and documents from the Army and interviewed serving and retired police officers, 54 civilians and retired soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment.

In a statement released today, Nuala O'Loan said: "There is nothing to suggest that the security forces colluded in the brutal murders of Gerard and Rory.

"There is no evidence that police had any advance warning, that they knew Gerard and Rory would be targeted, and no evidence that they could have prevented the attack. This was a purely sectarian attack."

However, Mrs O'Loan said the investigation of the murder had been flawed, and revealed that Special Branch had failed to pass on all relevant intelligence to the police inquiry team.

She added: "Although much good work was done in the initial stages of the investigation, within three months it had been stripped of resources and had effectively ground to a halt.

"I acknowledge the enormous pressure on police during this difficult time. Nevertheless, it is unacceptable that the investigation effectively ended after just a few months.

"I have therefore upheld Mr Cairns' complaint that police failed to conduct a robust and thorough investigation of this tragic case."

The Police Ombudsman has now recommended that the Historic Enquiries Team (HET) conducts a full review of the investigation.

(BMcC)

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