Belfast Telegraph

Retired detective Johnston Brown has attacked Nuala O'Loan as being 'totally unaccountable'

Shocked wife Rebecca leaves the airport after her husband's arrest

Brown hits back at the Ombudsman

Brown hits back at the Ombudsman

Ex-detective says his arrest will deter whistleblowers


RETIRED detective Johnston Brown has launched a scathing attack on the Police Ombudsman's office, accusing it of putting his family in danger by arresting him.

In his first detailed interview since last month's high-profile arrest, Mr Brown revealed that he has been warned by police in recent days about a loyalist plot to murder him.

He also slammed Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan as "totally unaccountable" and claimed he had been detained by her officials on spurious grounds. Mr Brown said he was being targeted on the basis of information he had voluntarily supplied to Mrs O'Loan's office four years ago.

He further warned that his arrest would deter other "whistleblowers" within the police from coming forward.

Vowing to challenge the arrest through legal action, he added: "I have absolutely nothing to fear. My conduct has been proper at all times.

"But this has made my life a misery and put my entire family in danger.

"The Ombudsman's office is a totally unaccountable body that answers to no one. Who do I complain to?"

The ex-detective served almost 30 years in the RUC and was widely praised for putting UDA chief Johnny Adair behind bars and exposing Ken Barrett, the loyalist killer of solicitor Pat Finucane.

Last year, he penned a best-selling book on his career, detailing his run-ins with RUC Special Branch.

But three weeks ago, he was arrested in a blaze of publicity at Belfast International Airport by the Police Ombudsman's office as he returned from a holiday in Turkey.

His house was searched for documents and his car seized.

Two other ex-CID men, including Mr Brown's former detective partner Trevor McIlwrath, were also detained.

All three men were later released without charge.

The arrests occurred in relation to a major Ombudsman investigation into the activities of a Special Branch agent in the UVF.

Mr Brown said he had briefed Ombudsman investigators on the rogue informer as far back as 2001 and again in 2002.

"Any explosive facts that Mrs O'Loan produces in her forthcoming report on this individual were given to her by me," he said.

"So why is she attempting to use it against me? Information is the lifeblood of criminal investigation.

"So why does she wish to stem the flow from whistleblowers like myself? Who is going to come forward from within the police when they could find themselves arrested at a later date?"

Mr Brown withdrew co-operation from the Ombudsman's office in 2003, after getting the first indications that his information could be used against him.

In a statement last month, the Police Ombudsman's office said the arrests formed part of a major probe into the way the RUC investigated the 1997 murder of north Belfast Protestant Raymond McCord.

It said ex-officers were questioned about "a number of matters including attempting to pervert the course of justice and misconduct in public office".

Mr McCord's father, Raymond Snr, has campaigned for years to expose the Special Branch agent who allegedly ordered this killing.

Mrs O'Loan's report on the case is due to be published next month.

Mr Brown said: "I was not questioned by the Police Ombudsman's team at all about the Raymond McCord investigation. I had absolutely no involvement in that investigation.

"The Police Ombudsman's office should have foreseen the consequences of its action against me and its public statements.

"After my arrest, graffiti appeared in loyalist areas branding me a 'Prod killer'. I received a written security warning from police about this graffiti, followed a few days later with a warning about a loyalist death threat."

Mr Brown was in fact questioned about the police investigation of the 1993 UVF murder of Catholic woman Sharon McKenna in north Belfast.

This is believed to have been the first murder committed by the Special Branch informer who later ordered the McCord killing.

Mr Brown has for years alleged that Special Branch shielded this agent from prosecution for the McKenna killing.

He is believed to have been quizzed by the Ombudsman's team over his handling of a conversation with the loyalist informer shortly after the 1993 murder.

The retired detective has been quoted in the past as saying that the informer had been crying and would have made a full written confession if he had been arrested and interrogated. He has also alleged previously that Special Branch was never going to let that happen.

"I am being pilloried for using exactly the same methodology that helped bring down Johnny Adair and Ken Barrett through intelligence gathering," he said.

"When Adair regularly boasted to me about his activities, I did not caution him or arrest him.

"I did exactly what was expected of me - noting the most important confessions in my official notebooks and journals and always making sure that I kept my CID authorities updated.

"That was the manner in which business was conducted. That was the methodology that put Adair behind bars for directing terrorism."

Mr Brown also gave the Stevens Inquiry team information about a conversation with Barrett about the Finucane murder - helping trigger events that would eventually result in the loyalist being jailed.

"I did not caution him or arrest him but made a record in my notebook and journal of what had been said.

"Sir John Stevens made no adverse comment about the manner of my record of events.

"He fully understood how business was conducted in the murky world of intelligence.

"He certainly never suggested that he would take action against me. He applied common sense and logic to the situation.

"If I had done in the Barrett and Adair cases what the Ombudsman's office is suggesting I should have done, they would both have escaped justice."

Mr Brown concluded: "To suggest that someone with my service record colluded with loyalist terrorists is preposterous.

"At the end of the day, questions have to be asked as to why the Ombudsman's office has behaved in this high-handed manner.

"Its actions have seriously impacted on my personal security and have had a profound effect on my wife's health."

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman's office said: "As this is an ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate for us to respond to the issues raised.

"If Mr Brown wishes to make a complaint there are mechanisms for him to do so."

The informer at the centre of the Ombudsman's investigation in the McCord case was named in the Dail last year as north Belfast loyalist Mark Haddock.


From Belfast Telegraph