Coroner 'incredulous' at missing bullet casings in Daniel McColgan murder probe
A coroner has said he is "incredulous" after bullet casings evidence from a sectarian murder in Northern Ireland disappeared.
Catholic Daniel McColgan, 20, was hit by at least 11 rounds fired by loyalists as he went to work at a postal sorting office in north Belfast in 2002, an inquest found. At least one shot was fired while he lay face down on the ground.
Senior coroner John Leckey found the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) paramilitary organisation was responsible for killing the innocent postman who he said was an easy target.
He said: "It must be a matter of great concern that exhibits in an unsolved murder should have disappeared.
"I am really incredulous that that should have happened."
The father-of-one was hit multiple times in the head and body, the coroner said.
Nobody has been convicted of the shooting.
Mr Leckey could make no finding on whether those who planned the murder knew a security camera which could have captured the incident was not working. He also could not conclude on whether any member or members of the workforce at the sorting office provided any information or assistance to those involved in the murder.
He added: "I am satisfied that careful planning had preceded this sectarian murder which included the acquisition of knowledge of the time Daniel was due to commence work that day."
The postman arrived at Rathcoole sorting office on January 12 2002 shortly before the start of his shift at 5am.
As he walked the short distance from his car to the building two gunmen wearing scarves around their faces opened fire.
Mr Leckey said he was satisfied that it was a totally sectarian act and that Mr McColgan was deliberately targeted because of his religion.
"He was a Roman Catholic in a predominantly Protestant workforce based in a predominantly loyalist area and accordingly was an easy target."
He said a security camera at the entrance gate to the sorting office had the potential to capture at least part of the murder sequence.
"That camera had been inoperative for some time and there had been a gross failure to ensure that it functioned as intended."
Two firearms were used. The Beretta pistol had been stolen previously but had no known history or previous use in criminal or terrorist activity.
A Browning-type pistol had been used previously in incidents which included two so-called punishment shootings and two attempted murders attributed to the UFF, Mr Leckey added.
A family statement said one of the weapons used to murder Mr McColgan had been "stolen" from a member of the security forces, and the senior investigator could not discount the possibility that the Browning pistol may have been imported by Ulster Defence Association (UDA) man and British military intelligence agent Brian Nelson.