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Public inquiry may be needed to probe Charlie and Tess Fox killings, says lawyer

By Michael McHugh

Published 22/01/2016

The judge made a series of findings of fact after analysing evidence at a family court hearing in Coventry
The judge made a series of findings of fact after analysing evidence at a family court hearing in Coventry

A lawyer for the family of a couple gunned down by loyalists in mid-Ulster has claimed a public inquiry may be necessary to investigate alleged state collusion.

Charlie and Tess Fox were shot dead at their home in Moy, Co Tyrone, in September 1992.

Members of their family believe soldiers and armed police were near the family home in the period before the murders.

A family solicitor said they were convinced state collusion was involved. Peter Corrigan said: "It is not a fanciful belief, it is based on circumstances and evidence and Historical Enquiry Team reports."

A senior judge reviewing all legacy inquests has repeatedly said it is up to the Government to fund investigations into cases which cannot be dealt with by the inquest system.

During a review of the Fox killings in Belfast, Mr Corrigan said the coroner's court must look into the wider circumstances and linked cases, connected by the terrorist organisation and people involved and the area where the killings happened.

"This inquest has the capacity to do it by widening the scope in relation to the inquests and widening the scope in relation to the personnel and ballistics."

He said the case was linked to the murder of Co Tyrone pensioner Roseann Mallon, as the same murder weapon was used.

Lord Justice Weir is reviewing all legacy inquests to determine when they can be held or if the coroner's system is not capable of dealing with some of them.

Mr Corrigan added: "If the court does determine that an inquest is not appropriate, we would seek a declaration that the Mid-Ulster murders can only be dealt with by a public inquiry."

Because there were criminal proceedings after the murders, no inquest was held.

Lord Justice Weir said if the case became one for a public inquiry it could be held at some distant point in the future, if at all.

It also emerged that the Lord Chief Justice is to meet with all victims' families next month as part of his review of legacy inquests. Sir Declan Morgan, who has previously met those bereaved by controversial killings, will seek their views on how matters can be dealt with quickly.

Lord Justice Weir said: "Quite a lot of people feel that such a long period of time has elapsed without a decisive outcome ... that they would like the matter to be brought to conclusion in their lifetimes."

The Lord Chief Justice took over responsibility for the coroner's service late last year.

Lord Justice Weir is assessing whether hearings will be held within the next two years or later, if ever.

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