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Brother of UVF victim Peter McTasney loses legal challenge over police probe

The brother of a loyalist murder victim has lost a legal challenge over alleged failures in the investigation into a killing shrouded in suspicions of security force collusion.

Catholic voluntary worker Peter McTasney was shot dead by a Ulster Volunteer Force gang at his home on the outskirts of north Belfast 25 years ago.

Amid claims that Mr McTasney's killers were led by a Special Branch agent, his brother Thomas issued judicial review proceedings against the PSNI over alleged delays in the inquiries.

But a High Court judge dismissed his case after pointing out that suspected UVF commander-turned supergrass Gary Haggarty is now charged with the murder as part of a catalogue of paramilitary crime.

Mr Justice Colton said: "For the court to conduct an investigation under the guise of judicial review proceedings at this stage would at best be premature."

Mr McTasney, 26, was gunned down in the living room of his house in Bawnmore, Newtownabbey in February 1991.

Loyalists armed with a gun and sledgehammer opened fire in the presence of his three-year-old daughter, who was also injured.

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A Police Ombudsman report identified the murder as one of 10 linked to a UVF unit operating out of the Mount Vernon estate.

Reference was made to an 'Informant 1' arrested and interviewed by Special Branch handlers before being released without charge.

According to legal papers in Thomas McTasney's legal challenge, that informant is widely known to be Mount Vernon man Mark Haddock.

The case also featured claims that investigators were removed from investigating alleged criminality committed by Haggarty, a former associate of Haddock.

Haggarty, 44, is currently facing a record 212 charges, including five murders and a catalogue of other paramilitary crime.

The suspected former UVF commander is now believed to be living in England after becoming a police informer.

He is still waiting to discover if he will stand trial for the alleged offences.

Thomas McTasney's legal team claimed some do not want to see Haggarty give evidence in court because of what he might say about former Special Branch handlers.

They sought a declaration that the PSNI has unlawfully failed to complete an investigation without undue delay.

It was claimed there is growing mistrust in the security forces due to continued suspicions of collusion.

However, Mr Justice Colton rejected contentions that the PSNI has unlawfully failed to discharge its obligation to investigate within a reasonable time.

He held that it would be disproportionate to carry out a detailed examination of steps taken by police.

"It could well impact on the upcoming prosecution and ongoing investigation.  It could well result in further delay for both," the judge noted.

Stressing his hope that the McTasney family will still get answers on the circumstances surrounding an "horrific murder", Mr Justice Colton confirmed he was refusing leave to seek a judicial review.

He added: "I do not believe therefore that any declaration, leaving aside the issues of arguability, is either necessary or appropriate at this stage of the investigation into the activities of Mr Haggarty and in particular the murder of Peter McTasney." ends

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