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RUC Special Branch 'knew loyalist killer Billy Wright was involved' in Roseann Mallon murder

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

RUC Special Branch knew a loyalist killer was involved in the murder of a 76-year-old spinster just weeks after it happened almost 20 years ago, an inquest has heard.

The notorious Billy Wright was identified in intelligence material provided by an informant on May 23 1994 -15 days after Dungannon woman Roseann Mallon was shot dead while watching television, it was claimed.

Other documents shown to the court suggested a "new, very young UVF recruit" was responsible for the fatal shooting.

But, Mr Justice Weir, the coroner hearing the controversial case, heard how information was never shared between Special Branch and CID murder squad detectives.

Barry Macdonald QC, acting for the Mallon family, said: "Information was all one way traffic. Special Branch was given complete access to what CID had, but everything was secret about what Special Branch knew because Special Branch was giving nothing."

He added: "The truth is that Special Branch provided no information to the CID in relation to this investigation."

Ms Mallon, who suffered from arthritis, was unable to escape when two Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gunmen opened fire on the rural property at Cullenrammer Road, Dungannon, on May 8 1994. She had been staying with relatives because she felt vulnerable at her own home a short distance away.

Billy Wright and two others were stopped and arrested about 45 minutes after the shooting. They were taken to Gough Barracks in Co Armagh but were released without charge after they refused to answer questions.

The long-awaited inquest, which is now in its third week, is looking at allegations the security forces colluded with her killers after army spying equipment was found hidden in a field overlooking the murder scene.

It heard how Special Branch, who had authorised the covert surveillance operation, told CID there was nothing of value on tapes a day before they received them.

Mr Macdonald said: "If logs are to be believed it looks as if Mr McBurney (head of CID) was being told there was nothing on the tapes a day before Special Branch even looked at the tapes."

A former senior Special Branch officer, who has been granted anonymity, insisted anything of relevance would have been passed on either in writing or through conversation.

"If there was anything of any relevance it would have been passed over," he said.

Meanwhile, another Special Branch officer who spent several days viewing the surveillance tapes said he saw nothing of note and did not believe the loyalist killers had been recorded scouting the area.

The detective constable, who was screened from view and was known as P5, said: "No-one raised my suspicion in the video."

He said he was best placed to view the footage because he had an in-depth knowledge of loyalist suspects and was confident he would not have missed anything of significance.

"I do not believe I missed anything," he said.

The hearing continues.

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