Belfast Telegraph

Car that sparked 'collusion' row

The Sam Marshall killing sparked controversy across 20 years and led to TV documentaries on allegations of state collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.

The furore was caused by the presence of a single military intelligence car at the murder scene, but this has now emerged as being only part of the story. The Marshall family says it is determined to continue to press for further information.

Sam Marshall's brother Gary said: "They hoped that we would go away. But, no matter if it takes another 22 years, we will still fight on."

The HET's (Historical Enquiries Team) 50 page report, however, found no evidence that soldiers or police officers had prior knowledge of the attack. The review team said it had "assessed all the investigative and intelligence material linked to Sam's murder and found no evidence of collusion".

But the Marshall family said that while the HET had exposed how much the police knew about the surveillance operation at the time, its review relied too heavily on an examination of the statements from the original RUC investigation. The family has criticised the HET decision not to reinterview the undercover soldiers, or to name their military unit.

The relatives asked nearly 200 questions in response to the HET report, but remain unhappy with the answers, despite the review team's claim it has done its best to meet the family's concerns. The HET and the family are effectively divided over key issues, including: How did the killers know when the republicans were leaving the police station?

The family has always claimed the three republicans attended the station at pre-arranged times known only to the trio, their lawyers and police. It is now known troops followed the men on four occasions in the month prior to the killing as they walked to and from the station.

The review team could not rule in or out whether the RUC leaked information to loyalists, but argued the killers may have mounted their own surveillance. The family had also asked: What was the significance of the major surveillance operation?

RUC Special Branch had briefed the undercover troops. But the HET revealed the RUC sought to deny existence of a surveillance operation following the killing by giving "misleading or incomplete" statements. Then in 1993 a senior RUC officer who investigated the Sam Marshall murder gave evidence at an unrelated extradition hearing in the United States.

Under cross-examination he indicated the Maestro was a military intelligence vehicle, but denied Sam Marshall was the target of the surveillance. The senior officer did not assist the HET review and has since died.

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