Police must pursue case despite IRA gunrunner's death: Jim Allister
Detectives must redouble their efforts to bring any senior republicans involved in the Florida gunrunning to justice, the TUV leader Jim Allister has demanded.
He was speaking after learning of the death of Irish-American stockbroker turned gunrunner Mike Logan, who had agreed to be a key witness against Sean 'Spike' Murray, the head of the IRA's Northern command.
Logan alleged that he had sent Murray hundreds of weapons during his five-year gunrunning career, which began after the IRA ceasefire and continued post-Good Friday Agreement.
Murray is one of Sinn Fein's most senior officials in Belfast.
He has continually denied any involvement in the gun smuggling plot, describing the allegations as "without foundation".
Murray, who served seven years in prison for explosive offences, is a regular visitor to Sinn Fein's Stormont offices.
Logan (57) died suddenly in his sleep in Florida last Saturday.
A family member said he had passed away peacefully. "There isn't an exact diagnosis but it appears to just be natural causes," he added.
The TUV leader said: "Mr Logan's death doesn't mean that the PSNI case should be finished too.
"They must redouble their efforts to bring all involved to justice.
"The revelations about Sean 'Spike' Murray were made in a Spotlight programme in 2014.
"Mr Logan's statements should have been taken shortly after that, and he should have been in court before now.
"The slow pace of progress regarding this case could unfortunately suggest to observers that an element of political expediency may be at play."
Last year a high-powered PSNI delegation travelled to the US to ask Logan to testify against Murray. They included Det Chief Supt Tim Hanley, head of Serious Crime Branch.
They discussed flying Logan to Belfast to give evidence and they pledged that stringent security measures would be in place to protect him during the trial.
Logan initially refused to testify, telling detectives that it would mean "a death sentence". However, he later changed his mind. The PSNI had promised him immunity from prosecution.
The former stockbroker alleged police had told him that they had new forensic evidence linking Murray to gunrunning and other serious crimes, and that his testimony would also be crucial.
Among the deadly cache of weapons that Logan sent the IRA was 200 handguns, including those used to murder two police officers, Constables John Graham and David Johnston, in Lurgan in 1997.
IRA victims' campaigner Willie Frazer said: "It is vital that any statements or affidavits that Mr Logan gave to the police are treated as viable evidence even though he has passed away. Statements made by a man who has since died are still important.
"We have worked with the families of the policemen shot in Lurgan and we know how much they have suffered."
UUP MLA Ross Hussey said: "It is a matter of real regret that, having agreed to give evidence, Mike Logan will now not be able to appear in court and identify his accomplices and, in particular, the people to whom he sent weapons from the USA."
Mr Logan became disillusioned with Sinn Fein and the IRA over the past decade.
A volatile character, given to regularly changing his mind over working with police, he said he had to overcome his instinctive hostility to "the cops" in order to co-operate with them.