Belfast Telegraph

Solicitor for RUC widow fears Garda probe flaws

The solicitor representing the family of the most senior RUC officer to be killed in the Troubles has expressed concern that some of the evidence gathered by Garda detectives into the double murder may not have been fully evaluated and shared with the RUC investigation team.

John McBurney, who represents Chief Superintendent Harry Breen's family at the ongoing Smithwick Tribunal, told the Belfast Telegraph that it would be important to learn if the RUC murder investigation team in 1989 had access to all the information gathered by the gardai during the course of their investigation into the IRA ambush at Jonesborough in south Armagh.

Mr McBurney said the evidence he heard from five witnesses at the Dublin-based tribunal on Friday raised a number of investigative issues which caused him concern.

The Smithwick Tribunal was set up to investigate whether there was state collusion in the murders of the RUC officers and has been taking public evidence since last week.

"The evidence given on Friday afternoon brings into sharp focus the question of the thoroughness of the Garda investigation in the aftermath of the tragedy and raises questions as to what information was provided in a timely fashion to the RUC investigation team," he said.

"One of the witnesses was certain that he saw a van containing one or more of the perpetrators waiting near a garage diesel pump for six or seven minutes with the garage attendant sitting for some unexplained reason at the pump like a man with a hangover with his head between his legs.

"It will be important to discover whether this garage attendant was traced and his witness evidence obtained and processed.

"It will be important to discover if the significant evidence from all five witnesses heard on Friday afternoon was obtained in that detail by the Garda officers conducting enquiries and passed onto the RUC investigators.

"Were it to emerge that this did not occur then that could become an important factor."

Two retired gardai are to give evidence tomorrow.

Background

The Smithwick Tribunal was set up to investigate allegations that a rogue Garda officer helped the IRA murder two senior RUC men. Chief Superintendent Harry Breen was shot dead near Jonesborough in south Armagh in 1989, along with his colleague Superintendent Bob Buchanan. The two officers had travelled to Dundalk to meet with gardai over security issues. The officers were travelling back to the north when they were ambushed.

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