Family lawyer welcomes police move
A lawyer for relatives of a GAA official abducted and murdered by loyalists has welcomed a police undertaking to pass case files to the coroner's office.
The development is significant in the long-delayed bid by the family of Sean Brown to have an inquest held, their solicitor Kevin Winters told a preliminary hearing in Belfast.
But the inquest may still not proceed until 2014 after it emerged that a fresh investigation by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) could take until the end of the year to be completed.
Mr Brown, 61, was abducted by loyalists as he locked up his local GAA club at Bellaghy, Co Londonderry, in May 1997.
The married father-of-six, who was chairman of the club, was shot multiple times in the head and his body was dumped around 10 miles away near Randalstown.
At Wednesday's hearing, which was attended by Mr Brown's son Damien, Northern Ireland's senior coroner John Leckey described the killing as "one of the most despicable murders" that had occurred in the region.
Mr Leckey's representatives are required to examine 40 boxes of police files on the case ahead of any inquest - an exercise which would deal with issues of disclosure and redaction. A lawyer for the PSNI informed the court the files would be available for reading within days.
Mr Winters welcomed the move. "The family is concerned about the passing of time," he said. "If the papers are transferred this week that's a significant matter.
"And on that basis we would be reasonably satisfied on the basis of time scale."
But Mr Winters stressed that the family did not want the inquest to proceed until the HET's investigation and report were complete.