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Anger over peace line murder probe

Published 06/05/2015

Liam Thompson was killed at a Belfast peace line in April 1994
Liam Thompson was killed at a Belfast peace line in April 1994

Delays in disclosing police files about a sectarian murder at a Northern Ireland peace line more than 20 years ago are unacceptable, a coroners' court has heard.

Liam Thompson, 25, was gunned down at Springfield Park in west Belfast in April 1994.

Solicitor Gemma McKeown, representing his family, said: "This is an inquest touching a death which is 21 years old.

"Whilst I accept reasons have been given, they are not acceptable.

"We were advised that sensitive material would be provided by the start of March this year."

The case of Mr Thompson, from Dermott Hill in Belfast, is among a large number of Troubles-related deaths still awaiting a full inquest.

At a preliminary inquiry in Mays Chambers in the city centre it was claimed the specialist police legacy unit was struggling to cope.

Stephen Ritchie, barrister for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), said a "root and branch" change of personnel coupled with financial pressures had added to the delays.

Mr Ritchie said: "From the police point of view it is creating significant difficulties because there are a number of coroners' inquiries with these preliminary hearings ongoing, and in each one the families are, quite understandably, saying, 'when are we going to get our disclosure?'.

"That's putting pressure on the legacy unit which is unable to cope with the entirety of that work."

The lawyer said he hoped the sensitive material could be handed over within two months.

No time frame was given for the dissemination of a separate report by the Historical Enquiries Team which re-examined the controversial killing.

The court was also told that PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris had written to the region's senior coroner, John Leckey, to highlight budget constraints and request a prioritised list of legacy inquests.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson said work on prioritisation was "ongoing".

Another preliminary hearing is expected to take place in the next couple of months although a date was not confirmed.

Ms Anderson said: "I do want to keep this matter under review."

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