Belfast Telegraph

Family 'let down' by police probe into OAP's killing

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

The family of a pensioner killed almost two years ago say they feel “completely let down” by the police and judicial system.

Jim ‘Sunshine’ Heasley (70) died 10 days after being attacked as he walked home from a pigeon club in Lisburn in October 2010.

Initially the PSNI believed his injuries were the result of a fall.

However, last month alcoholic Jackie Allen (48) pleaded guilty to his manslaughter at Craigavon Courthouse.

It has now emerged that seven PSNI officers, five of whom hold supervisory positions, have been disciplined after the Police Ombudsman found “a series of failings” in their initial inquiries.

“I feel very bitter towards the police now,” Mr Heasley’s brother David told the Belfast Telegraph.

“We feel completely let down. This has totally eroded our confidence in the police.”

The Ombudsman’s office cited a number of significant flaws in the initial police response, including the failure to photograph Mr Heasley’s injuries and seize his clothing for analysis.

The Ombudsman also found there should have been a more robust examination of the incident scene on the night Mr Heasley was attacked.

“The investigation should have been referred to the CID for advice and guidance at an earlier stage,” an Ombudsman spokesman said.

“Our investigation concluded that there appeared to have been an assumption by police that Jim had sustained his injuries as a result of a fall, rather than an attack.”

“A blind man on a galloping horse would have seen the injuries were not caused by a fall,” added Mr Heasley, who also vented his anger on the Nolan Show

Allen was sentenced to six years for manslaughter, but under the current 50% remission system will serve just three years behind bars. The Heasley family has slammed what they perceive as a lenient sentence.

“The justice system is a farce,” said Mr Heasley.

“There is no consideration going for the victim or the victim’s family. I think three years is a disgrace.”

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has urged the Director of Public Prosecution to consider referring the case to the Court of Appeal.

A spokeswoman for the PSNI said that lessons had been learned.

“We recognise that there were failings in the initial police handling of this case and we have apologised to the family for that,” she said.

Belfast Telegraph

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