Suspect in killings of RUC men Ernest Carson and Michael Malone released
Arrest over IRA murder of two officers in 1987 will ‘upset families still awaiting justice’
The arrest of a man over the murder of two RUC detectives nearly 30 years ago has brought back a "pain that never goes away" a former colleague has said.
Detective Constables Ernest Stanley Carson (50) from Steeple Green in Antrim and Michael Malone (35) from Holywood were killed by IRA gunmen in Belfast while going for a drink in the Liverpool bar on Donegall Quay on August 26, 1987.
Another officer and a 23-year-old civilian who was playing pool at the time were also injured in the attack.
The painful memory of the deaths resurfaced for the two families after a 54-year-old man was arrested by the PSNI in connection with the deaths.
He was taken for questioning at a police station in Belfast.
Raymond White chairs the Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers Association and knew the two officers well.
"We lost 302 officers (in The Troubles), some I knew personally. Stanley Carson and Michael Malone I knew and they were two fine individuals," he said.
"They went to have a drink, I think, that evening in the bar, it would have been their local and unfortunately that fact must have become known to the paramilarities and they were ambushed and executed more or less where they sat."
Mr White, who is a former Assistant Chief Constable, added: "They were two very good detectives and hard workers as were all the RUC by and large at that time. Outside of that I would have regarded them as two fine colleagues."
Both men had two children and were working as plain clothes detectives co-operating with Belfast's port authorities. The IRA had claimed they had been surveilling some of their members, a standard practice at the time for police monitoring port activity.
Mr White said he hoped the arrest could lead to some answers for the families.
"It's a pain and a loss that never goes away," he said. "They say time heals these matters, but I think pain simply allows you to come to terms with it to some degree. But the memory is always there from the family's point of view.
"If someone is arrested and it results in a successful prosecution I'm sure they would get some closure and satisfaction out of that."
The Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey served as an RUC officer between 1977 and 2003. While he didn't know the two men, he said it was an all-too familiar experience for officers at the time.
"There were that many murders of police officers that it can be difficult to recollect the exact circumstances which is a tragedy in its own right," he said.
"My first reaction is one of sadness for the family because clearly here we are 29 years later and the murder of their loved ones will still be very fresh in their hearts."
Mr Hussey said that if the arrest led to a successful prosecution, the highest jail sentence would be two years because of a clause in the Good Friday Agreement on Troubles-related killings.
"If someone came forward I can understand them being given a more lenient sentence, but in these cases where the police have to thoroughly investigate, it sticks in my throat that someone has committed a murder, who has been free for nearly 30 years would only serve two years, but that was the way the agreement was worded. I hope that in the near future the families will have some explanation and their day in court."
The man arrested was released last night.
A PSNI statement said: "A 54- year-old man arrested in Belfast this morning as part of enquiries into the murders of two police officers in the city 29 years ago has been released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service."