Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Hamill murder probe cop feared leaks on collusion allegations

The detective who headed the Robert Hamill murder probe feared leaks of sensitive information on collusion allegations.

The public inquiry on the Hamill case heard evidence from beyond the grave yesterday from retired RUC Detective Chief Superintendent Maynard McBurney.

Mr McBurney was the senior investigating officer on the sectarian murder of Mr Hamill in Portadown in 1997.

He also headed the probe into allegations of police malpractice in the case. These included an accusation that a reserve constable had tipped off a murder suspect to destroy clothes he had been wearing.

Mr McBurney died in May this year, without having appeared at the public |inquiry to give evidence.

The inquiry yesterday began listening to a lengthy taped interview held with the retired detective in 2006 in preparation for its hearings.

In it, Mr McBurney said he had not followed normal procedure on using a policy book for a murder investigation.

He believed this was the only time he had not used a policy book.

At one point in the interview, Mr McBurney said: “It would appear that we already had one breach of security and I didn't want another.”

He stressed he could not have recorded information on the tip-off allegation against the constable in a policy book “if that was going to be possibly read or whatever”.

He added: “Because there's no way that you can keep anything secret in a police station. I don't care where you put it, you know, safes whatever.”

Mr McBurney also said he had found it unsatisfactory that local police teams would be carrying out arrest operations on suspects.

He further revealed that he had queried his own appointment as senior investigating officer.

“I voiced the opinion that it wasn't such a good idea to put someone like me in charge because it added some considerable pressure, working in the area, living there, and all the rest of it,” he stated.

He said he had been “ultra careful” on the confidentiality of intelligence and had advised other officers to be “very tight-lipped”.

It was also disclosed during the taped interview that the phone records of |notorious loyalist Mark ‘Swinger’ Fulton were obtained by Mr McBurney's investigation team.

Fulton, an associate of LVF leader Billy Wright, was later found dead in his prison cell in 2002.

The inquiry's 2006 interview with Mr McBurney lasted some six and a half hours. Another section of it is due to be played to the proceedings tomorrow.