Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Ex-police chief denies ‘disgraceful’ Robert Hamill allegation

The former head of the police force in Northern Ireland was accused of claiming a man beaten to death by loyalists may have been accidentally killed by his family, an inquiry heard.

It was also suggested that Sir Ronnie Flanagan claimed Robert Hamill's sister Diane had an agenda to “discredit” the force.

Sir Ronnie said the record from an unnamed government official presented to the Hamill inquiry was completely inaccurate and disgraceful.

Mr Hamill (25) was attacked in Portadown in April 1997.

The minute from an unnamed government official said: “I generally found the Chief Constable in a pretty defensive and critical mood.

“In particular, he commented that Hamill's death could have been caused by his own family cradling his head in a way that led to oxygen starvation.”

Mr Hamill, a Catholic, died 11 days after he was kicked and beaten by a loyalist mob in the centre of Portadown.

The inquiry is investigating if there was police malpractice in the killing.

The allegation linking the victim's family to his death was part of a minute of a conversation of July 24, 2000, but the official, who was carrying out a review, cannot be named.

Sir Ronnie said: “To suggest that Robert's death was due to anything other than the beating he received at the hands of his assailants is absolutely disgraceful.”

He denied saying that Diane Hamill had an agenda to discredit the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

“I think she has an agenda to find out exactly what happened to her brother,” he added.

Sir Ronnie admitted at the Belfast inquiry that relations between nationalists and police needed to improve and said it was one of his priorities on taking up office.

Before Mr Hamill's death, the controversial Drumcree Orange Order parade had been allowed down the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown after an overwhelming display of aggression from loyalists.

Sir Ronnie, who now lives in the Middle East, was Chief Constable of the RUC and then the Police Service of Northern Ireland between 1996 and 2002.

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