The Omagh bombing in which 29 people died was the single worst tragedy of the Troubles. That tragedy has been compounded by what has been revealed to be one of the most ham-fisted and unprofessional investigations into the massacre.
In the immediate aftermath of the atrocity, the relatives of those killed were promised by no less than the Prime Minister that no stone would be left unturned in the efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. With the acquittal of Sean Hoey, the Omagh relatives are still waiting for justice to be delivered in any shape or form.
Seldom, if ever, has a judge delivered such a damning indictment of the entire prosecution case as that given by Mr Justice Weir yesterday.
Acquitting Mr Hoey of being involved in a Real IRA bombing campaign, including Omagh, the judge lambasted the police investigation, the handling of vital evidence by the Northern Ireland Forensic Service and, by implication, the Public Prosecution Service for bringing such a shambolic case before the courts.
Mr Justice Weir singled out two police witnesses, Scenes of Crimes Officer Fiona Cooper and DCI Philip Marshall for their "deliberate and calculated deception" during their evidence. And he said that others concerned in the investigation and preparation of the case for trial may also have played a part in that deception. He has sent transcripts of the evidence sent to the Police Ombudsman for further potential action.
Police bungling of the storage of forensic items and a "slapdash and thoughtless" approach by some officers to the collection of exhibits were also highlighted by the judge. He further criticised the Forensic Service, which he said should have known how to handle exhibits properly.
Little wonder that he had to find Hoey not guilty. Quite simply the evidence did not stack up and that was entirely due to unprofessional police work at virtually every stage.
The judge's criticism bears out the findings of the former Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, who also concluded that the RUC investigation of the Omagh atrocity was botched.
Today, the relatives of those killed must feel betrayed. They put their faith in the police and the justice system to jail those responsible for the slaughter of their loved ones. That faith was not repaid.
That a case of such magnitude could be handled so badly is almost inconceivable and it is clear the judge could scarcely come to terms with the paucity of the evidence put before him.
Now the Omagh relatives want a cross-border investigation into the bombing. It is clear that there was a cross-border element in the planning and commission of the crime. Perhaps a fresh, professional approach can finally bring justice.