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Watchdog is to probe witness's claim RUC man 'executed' Provo

By Deborah McAleese

Published 01/07/2016

Killed: Colum Marks
Killed: Colum Marks

The police killing of an IRA man 25 years ago is to be reinvestigated after an eyewitness claimed he was shot while under arrest.

Colum Marks was shot dead by the RUC in 1991 during an attempted mortar bomb attack on the police station in Downpatrick, Co Down.

It has been claimed the 29-year-old was not armed when RUC officers opened fire.

The Police Ombudsman has agreed to launch an inquiry into the killing amid claims of a shoot-to-kill policy.

An eyewitness has come forward and said that on the night of the shooting he saw a man, believed to have been Marks, being walked along a street under police guard.

He said it was clear the man was under arrest, and that three RUC officers were with him.

This account contradicts the police version of events. The police officer who fired the shots said he believed Marks was armed, and claimed he refused to stop when an attempt was made to arrest him.

The RUC had intelligence that the IRA was planning to launch a mortar attack on a police patrol and was lying in wait when the terrorist unit arrived.

Lawyers for the Marks family have said the advance knowledge police had about the attack meant they should have been in a position to arrest him without opening fire.

Police claimed Marks ignored a number of warnings to stop and was shot because it was feared he posed a threat. No gun was found.

Revelations of the Police Ombudsman's involvement were made yesterday during a legal bid to compel the watchdog to investigate the shooting.

Legal proceedings were dropped, however, when the court heard the Ombudsman had now decided to launch an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting.

He took the decision after the eyewitness came forward with new information.

Barrister Sean Devine said that the fresh evidence represented a significant development in the case.

Gavin Booth, a legal representative for the Marks family, said that the new information "fundamentally undermines the police account of what happened".

The Police Ombudsman said an assessment of the case will now be carried out to establish when the investigation can begin.

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