Unearthed police files could help catch loyalist killer of GAA official Sean Brown
Files found during the closure of a police station are "potentially relevant" to the loyalist murder of a GAA official, a coroner has been told.
Reams of documents related to an individual suspected of involvement in Sean Brown's shooting in 1997 were discovered when an inventory was taken of the contents of Maghera station.
Mr Brown (61) was abducted and murdered as he closed the gates of a GAA club in Bellaghy, Co Londonderry.
The revelation concerning the files, which came nine years after the preliminary inquest process first started and months before a potential full hearing is due to take place, was met with shock and anger by Mr Brown's family.
When the development emerged at a preliminary inquest hearing, a barrister representing Northern Ireland's Senior Coroner John Leckey pledged to review the papers to assess their relevance.
Gerry McAlinden QC yesterday informed Mr Leckey he and a colleague had examined the contents of "10 to 12 boxes" and were due to inspect more documents.
"The process is ongoing," he said during the latest preliminary hearing at Belfast Coroners Court.
"It would appear that from the inspection of the boxes we have seen, there are some documents that are potentially relevant."
The documents focus on a separate money-laundering investigation in 2005 in which the unnamed individual suspected of links to Mr Brown's shooting was also a suspect.
Mr McAlinden had already warned the court that the time required to examine the "voluminous" documentation was set to further push back a potential hearing date in the case.
Mr Brown's son Damien watched yesterday's proceedings from the public gallery of the court. It was the 26th preliminary hearing in the case to date.
Earlier this year it emerged that classified material deemed relevant for the inquest had been lost. On top of that, redactions, including the blanking out of names on 34 folders of non-sensitive material, had not been completed by the PSNI.
Northern Ireland's Chief Constable rejected a claim by the SDLP that police were protecting the murderers of Mr Brown.
MLA and Policing Board member Dolores Kelly had claimed Mr Brown's killers were being protected because they were "State agents" or informers.
But Chief Constable George Hamilton said that no one was above the law.