Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Robert Hamill inquiry set to hear from key witness

A key witness in the Robert Hamill public inquiry is due to finally give evidence today, after being the subject of High Court proceedings.

Tracey Clarke had originally made allegations against men arrested for Mr Hamill's murder, and a police officer accused of helping one of the suspects.

But she later retracted these claims and then declined to give evidence to the inquiry, citing medical grounds.

The inquiry referred her failure to attend to the High Court earlier this year.

Last week, a lawyer for Ms Clarke told the court that she was now willing to give evidence at the earliest opportunity. She is scheduled to appear by video link today.

Mr Hamill was fatally injured in a late night-sectarian assault in Portadown in April 1997.

The public inquiry is examining disputed claims that police officers stationed in a Land Rover failed to intervene.

It is also reviewing the subsequent investigation of the murder, as well as allegations that an officer — Reserve Constable Robert Atkinson — tipped off a suspect, Allister Hanvey, by phone to destroy clothes he had been wearing on the night.

But Mr Atkinson and Mr Hanvey have strongly maintained their innocence in personal evidence to the inquiry.

Ms Clarke has been described in the inquiry proceedings as the “sometime girlfriend” of Mr Hanvey.

In a statement to police in 1997, she had identified him and a number of other men as being involved in the Hamill attack. But she refused to give evidence and murder charges did not proceed.

The inquiry has heard that her relationship with Mr Hanvey subsequently resumed for a period and they had two children together. The importance of Ms Clarke's evidence to the public inquiry was emphasised by the leading counsel to the inquiry, Ashley Underwood QC, in January.

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