Belfast Telegraph

Glenanne Gang: Witnesses and victim's relatives are dying without closure on suspected state collusion, High Court hears

By Alan Erwin

Witnesses and those bereaved by a loyalist unit behind more than 100 murders are dying without achieving any closure on suspected state collusion, a High Court judge stated on Tuesday.

As Mr Justice Treacy confirmed he will make an order compelling Northern Ireland's Chief Constable to complete an overarching investigation into the so-called Glenanne Gang's killing spree throughout the 1970s, he set out the wider impact of legal complexities in the case.

He said: "The very sad inescapable fact is that while these debates rage on at huge public expense the victims' families languish with no end in sight and the ever increasing realisation that nothing much may happen in their lifetime."

Earlier this year he ruled that police unlawfully frustrated any chance of an effective probe into the series of atrocities.

Relatives who lost loved ones were denied in their legitimate expectation that the now-defunct Historical Enquiries Team would publish a thematic report, the judge held.

The verdict was reached in a legal challenge brought in the name of Edward Barnard.

Mr Barnard's 13-year-old brother Patrick was among four people killed in a St Patrick's Day bomb attack on the Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon in March, 1976.

Five years later Dungannon UVF member Garnet James Busby was convicted after admitting his role in the attack.

The murder gang based at a farm in Glenanne, Co Armagh allegedly contained members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment.

Up to 120 murders in nearly 90 incidents in Mid Ulster and Irish border areas are under scrutiny.

They include outrages such as the 1975 Miami Showband Massacre, where three members of the popular group were taken from their tour bus and shot dead on a country road in Banbridge, County Down, and the Step Inn pub bombing in Keady a year later, which claimed the lives of two Catholics.

It has also been linked to the murder of 33 people, including a pregnant woman, in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

A draft HET report into alleged security force collaboration with the killers was said to have been 80% finalised before being shelved.

Mr Barnard and other relatives wanted to have police compelled to complete the full investigation and publish the findings.

His barrister said documents in the case revealed Busby named two other suspects who allegedly took the bomb to the bar.

He argued that the development represented fresh evidence in the case.

Counsel for the Chief Constable had insisted it would be an unnecessary step to force police to finalise an overarching report he claimed had yielded no new investigative opportunities.

Following his original ruling Mr Justice Treacy was urged to make an order of mandamus compelling the Chief Constable to conduct a lawful investigation, and complete and publish an overarching thematic report.

He was told the PSNI is set to appeal his judgment, with no steps taken to implement his substantive findings.

"No good reasons having been established in this case, I thus consider that mandamus is appropriate," he confirmed.

Before drafting the terms of his order he requested confirmation that there are no minutes or documents about the adoption of new terms of reference or the decisions of the Chief Constable and an Assistant Chief Constable referred to in the case.

Referring to the collusion allegations, he said: "I have no doubt that for some families their confidence has been undermined by delays which they believe are inimical to addressing their principal unresolved concerns.

"In the meantime witnesses or potential witnesses are lost and family members of the deceased die without any closure or resolution."

The judge added: "Furthermore, the anxiety of the surviving family members is not only undimmed but exacerbated by the delays of a system that appears powerless to stop it."

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