The sisters of murder victim Robert McCartney have pledged that they will never give up their battle for justice.
On the fifth anniversary of his death in Magennis’s Bar in Belfast City Centre, his sister Catherine said the Police Ombudsman is now investigating the police handling of the case after three men charged in connection with his death were acquitted.
The police and Public Prosecution Service did not have strong enough evidence to justify putting Mr McCartney’s family through a four-week trial that ultimately left the judge insisting he had no choice to acquit, she said.
“The trial is finished as far as the police were concerned — they aren’t looking for anyone else,” she said.
“We went to the Ombudsman last year to make a complaint in terms of the investigation because after sitting through the trial it was clear the focus was so narrow — we were surprised at how little evidence there was in that courtroom. We have a series of concerns regarding the investigation and the Ombudsman is in the process of reviewing that investigation.”
In the courtroom, two witnesses admitted they had been interviewed by the IRA on several occasions for hours at a time, she said. This was seen as contamination of the evidence.
Meanwhile, the key piece of evidence put forward by the police and PPS — the identification of the main suspect — was found to be weak.
“The judge had no option but to acquit all three. The police are now taking the line that unless someone else comes and admits what happened that night, they are no longer active on that case,” Catherine said.
“It’s an absolute disgrace. A murderer is out there who police aren’t even interested in searching for. A man was murdered in a city centre bar and up to 15 people were involved. The police have told us they know what happened that night from A to Z.”
Mr McCartney (33) was stabbed and beaten to death by a mob of at least 12 men, many of them IRA members, outside the bar in January 2005.
The four sisters and Mr McCartney’s fiancee have spent the last five years battling to bring those responsible to trial. They met the US president George Bush at the White House as part of their international campaign to demand that Sinn Fein members come forward as witnesses.
Sinn Fein and the IRA have always denied the claims that they were preventing witnesses coming forward.
Ms McCartney last night questioned why the police did not question those named in court as having facilitated a series of meetings between the witnesses and the IRA following the murder.
She said it seemed the police had not used their full powers to “shake people up” enough to secure the evidence that would have seen the culprits convicted.
The family marked the fifth anniversary with a meal and renewed their plea for witnesses to come forward.