Belfast Telegraph

MoD Mallon documents not disclosed

Uncensored documents relating to the murder of pensioner Roseann Mallon have still not been disclosed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), even though her inquest has entered its second week, a coroner's court was told.

Barrister Fiona Doherty said some army logs from a secret surveillance operation mounted in the area where the 76-year-old was shot dead had not been received by legal representatives for the Mallon family.

She said: "There is no reason why these unredacted logs could not be handed over."

Ms Mallon, a spinster, was gunned down by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) on May 8, 1994.

She had been staying with her sister-in-law because she felt vulnerable and was watching television in the living room of the house at Cullenrammer Road, Dungannon, Co Tyrone, when two gunmen opened fire indiscriminately spraying the property with bullets.

Ms Mallon was hit multiple times and died at the scene.

The case is shrouded in controversy after military spying equipment was discovered in a nearby field, sparking claims the security forces colluded with the killers.

High Court Judge Mr Justice Weir, who is hearing the non-jury inquest, told MoD lawyers they should adopt an "open book" approach to the proceedings.

"You should put your cards face up, otherwise people imagine things are hidden underneath them," said Judge Weir.

The judge also said that in some instances names had been unnecessarily blanked out on documents.

"Sometimes there is a feeling that people are perhaps over protective," he added.

The UVF claimed responsibility for the Catholic pensioner's murder and said its mid-Ulster brigade had been targeting her relatives who were involved in the republican movement.

The inquest is one of 29 controversial Troubles-related legacy cases and has been awaiting a full hearing for almost two decades.

Earlier, the court heard how the secret camera would have been incapable of filming the murder scene.

Colin Deegan, a former sergeant with the King's Regiment who had installed the surveillance equipment on April 20, 1994, said it was focused on engineering works adjacent to the bungalow where Ms Mallon was killed.

When asked by Dennis Rooney, barrister for the MoD, if it was possible to see anyone running to the left or front of the house, Mr Deegan said: "No."

Mr Deegan, who was previously known as as Soldier B, said that filming the engineering works had been his priority.

"That was my priority. Yes," he added.

It was also revealed that the camera equipment, worth £19,988, could only operate during daylight and would have been affected by bad weather, poor light or wildlife.

It was capable of panning right and left, tilting up and down and was able to follow a vehicle from the workshop along the Cullenrammer Road. Video footage of a vehicle leaving the engineering works was shown to the court.

It was installed under the cover of darkness, buried in the ground and concealed with bird's nest materials and grass sods. A smaller camera was also inserted as a security precaution in case the equipment was stolen.

Images were then relayed to a unit of about six soldiers who had set up a covert observation post in a nearby wood.

Mr Deegan said: "The capability of the camera was really reduced by the slightest bit of rain, or if it was overcast (it) reduces the camera - but we have to sacrifice that to conceal it."

He said ideal conditions were bright, cold days.

On the night of the murder, the inquest was told that the camera was not recording from 9.28pm because it was dark.

It had been switched off earlier in the day because of adverse weather conditions and weather reports shown to the court confirmed there were showers in the Dungannon area during the afternoon of May 8.

A sergeant who was in charge of the operation on the ground said : "The camera had very limited capability. While we would endeavour to see what we could, all sorts of things affected it. The weather and the light would be the main things that affected it."

The soldier, whose identity was given as Soldier V but who was not screened from view, said his unit may also have recorded details about suspicious vehicles passing the Mallon house.

He said: "If a vehicle had raised some suspicion or perhaps we had been informed that a vehicle had been involved in some suspicious activity, of course we would be looking out for that vehicle."

Yesterday the court heard that Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch officers may have bypassed normal procedures to access video footage the day after Ms Mallon's murder.

Soldier V said he could not be 100% sure if he had received a request for footage but noted that surveillance tapes would have been sent out to intelligence analysts every three to five days.

The observation team also reported hearing a burst of automatic gunfire about 500 metres from their location.

Soldier X, who gave evidence from behind a screen, said they would have packed up their kit and been ready to move immediately but were told by superiors in the operation room at Killymeal Barracks, Dungannon, not to react.

He said: "We were stood to, which meant everybody there was placed on 100% alertness.

"We would have individually packed up any kit, ready to react when we were tasked to go anywhere."

None of the relatives were in court today.

The inquest is not sitting tomorrow but will resume on Thursday.

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