Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Detective ‘convinced’ by witness admission

A detective involved in the Robert Hamill murder probe has testified that he found a key witness on a collusion allegation convincing.

John Devlin appeared as a police witness at the Hamill public inquiry yesterday.

He was asked about Andrea McKee, a woman at the centre of a complicated saga involving a tip-off allegation against a Portadown RUC officer.

Reserve Constable Robert Atkinson was accused of phoning a suspect in the 1997 Hamill murder attack to warn him to destroy clothes he had been wearing. Mr Atkinson has strongly denied the allegation in his evidence to the inquiry.

Andrea McKee had originally told police that a phone call from the Atkinson household to the suspect's address hours after the fatal assault had been made by her husband. She and her husband later admitted that this was a lie and were prosecuted for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Devlin gave evidence yesterday as one of the police officers who interviewed Ms McKee when she confessed to lying.

He said: “I believe the account she gave us during the interview was truthful.”

Ms McKee had been due to give court evidence for a prosecution of Mr Atkinson. But that case collapsed in early 2004 when prosecutors concluded that she could not be relied upon as a credible witness.

That decision stemmed from her failure to attend a pre-trial hearing in the case. She was living in Wales by that stage and blamed the illness of her son for the non-appearance. Inquiries confirmed that her son had been diagnosed with an ear infection and possible mumps.

She had taken him to her GP and a house call had also been made by a doctor.

But prosecutors concluded that she had lied to them when she said she had also taken the boy to a surgery over a weekend.

Barrister Gerald Simpson, who expected to be prosecuting the Atkinson case, told the inquiry he had met Ms McKee and decided she had been lying “though her teeth”.

The inquiry continues.

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