Mallon inquest faces new delay
A long-awaited inquest for a murdered Northern Ireland pensioner could be facing further delay, a senior judge has warned.
High Court Judge Mr Justice Weir said he was anxious that the case for Roseann Mallon, which began in 2013, should not be unduly delayed by a legal wrangle.
Judge Weir said: "This inquest has been adjourned because of matters of forensic misidentification, therefore the case has gone on for much longer than any of us would have wished.
"I am anxious that a determination is made so the case would not be unduly delayed."
The hearing was told an issue had arisen with responses given by two police witnesses.
Sean Doran QC, barrister for the Coroners Service, said questions had been raised about an apparent security force policy under which officers cannot confirm or deny whether someone is working as an informant or agent.
Mr Doran said: "These witnesses have been asked whether they were aware that the suspects investigated in the Mallon case had acted as informers or agents and two witnesses responded by saying they could neither confirm nor deny.
"The matter gives rise to some issues of legal difficulty."
Judge Weir has received written submissions from legal representatives for the Mallon family, the Ministry of Defence and the Police Service of Northern Ireland as well as the Coroners Service, the court heard.
However, time may also have to be set aside to hear oral submissions on the matter, it was claimed.
Judge Weir added: "I do think it is important that we consider the matter carefully."
Miss Mallon, 76, was shot dead when loyalist paramilitaries attacked her sister-in-law's Co Tyrone home in May 1994.
The spinster, who suffered arthritis, was hit multiple times when gunmen from the outlawed U lster Volunteer Force (UVF) indiscriminately opened fire on the bungalow on Cullenrammer Road at the edge of Dungannon.
The UVF said its notorious mid-Ulster brigade was responsible and was targeting two of Ms Mallon's nephews, Christopher Mallon - who was not home at the time - and Martin Mallon, who lived half a mile away. Both were involved with the republican movement.
In the aftermath, military spying equipment was found in a nearby field, sparking claims of security force collusion.
The covert camera was relaying footage to an Army unit posted in a nearby wood. The inquest has previously heard how tape recordings were wiped and the camera was unable to operate in poor weather conditions and darkness.
No one has ever been convicted of Ms Mallon's killing although high-profile killer Billy Wright, who was murdered in 1997, and two other loyalists were arrested and questioned.
The inquest was dramatically halted in December 2013 when it emerged that the weapon had been linked to at least six other loyalist killings in the east Tyrone area.
Last week it was claimed the Czech-bought assault rifle was part of a consignment brought into Northern Ireland by Army-run agent Brian Nelson.
Nelson, who died in 2003, has been linked to the murders of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989 and father-of-three Gerard Slane a year earlier.
The inquest has been adjourned until Friday when a timetable for the way forward is expected to be discussed.