Belfast Telegraph

Loughinisland families ‘angry and disgusted’ at report findings

By Adrian Rutherford

The families of six men murdered by loyalist gunmen at Loughinisland have insisted there was security force collusion in the killings, amid growing anger over the Police Ombudsman’s report into the atrocity.

Relatives spoke of their shock and anger after Al Hutchinson concluded there was insufficient evidence that the RUC had colluded with the UVF gang which carried out the 1994 massacre.

The attack inside the Heights Bar in the South Down village came as customers were watching the Republic of Ireland play Italy in a World Cup match.

Among the victims was Barney Green (87), one of the oldest victims of the Troubles. Yesterday his niece, Moira Casement, said there was clear evidence of collusion.

“We feel that anyone who looks at the overwhelming evidence in this case with an open heart could come to no other conclusion than that there was collusion in the murder of our loved ones,” she said.

The killings took place shortly after 10pm on June 18, 1994. Two gunmen opened fire, raking the bar with more than 200 bullets.

In 2006 the victims’ families asked the ombudsman to investigate concerns about the RUC investigation into the atrocity.

Mr Hutchinson’s report, published yesterday, criticised the RUC probe, saying it lacked “effective leadership and investigative diligence”. He acknowledged that the families still believe the killers colluded with police, but added: “I consider there is insufficient evidence to establish that collusion took place.”

However, Claire Rogan, whose husband Adrian was killed, said the families were disgusted, angry and frustrated by the findings.

“When we took our complaints to the ombudsman we saw that as a breath of fresh air, it was a light, a new beginning, we thought we were going to get to the truth,” she said. “Five years on we are no further forward.”

The families’ grievances include:

  • Anger that crucial evidence, including the killers’ getaway car, was either lost or destroyed
  • Criticism of the initial investigation, which Mr Hutchinson said was “poorly managed”
  • Inconsistency in the forensic testing of suspects which was ignored by the report
  • The original senior investigating officer’s refusal to assist with the ombudsman’s inquiry

Patrick McCreanor, whose uncle Dan McCreanor was killed, said there had been little progress |from former ombudsman Nuala O’Loan’s investigation into Operation Ballast, when three assistant chief constables declined to co-operate.

“How long will we keep on hearing the same old story? How many times can evidence mysteriously go missing from police custody?” he said.

Meanwhile, the solicitor who represented the families accused Mr Hutchinson of performing “factual gymnastics” to avoid stating there had been collusion in their loved ones’ killings.

Niall Murphy said the ombudsman had failed to fulfil his duty of finding and reporting the truth.

“Al Hutchinson had the chance to give these families some form of justice after 17 long years of waiting by telling them what really happened in Loughinisland,” he said.

“Collusion happened in this atrocity and the facts in the report prove it. The conclusions, however, fall far short of what the facts demand.

“A case, the families fear, of see no evil, hear no evil, report no evil.

“What has made it worse is that Mr Hutchinson appears to have forgotten that the Police Ombudsman's office was established for one reason and one reason only — to find the truth and report on it.”

Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris apologised to the victims for what the ombudsman described as “a lack of consistent focus” in the police probe.

“There is a great sadness and frustration for all of us in policing that those responsible for this horrific crime have never been brought to justice,” he said.

He said the PSNI remain “firmly committed” to apprehending the killers.

In quotes

“There have been huge forensic developments in the 17 years since our loved ones were murdered but yet the RUC and PSNI can't even identify one of the killers, even though he left his hair behind.”

Barman Aidan O’Toole, who was injured on the night

“For 11 years after the murder of our loved ones, police did not even have any strategy to keep us informed of what was going on.”

Emma Rogan, daughter of Adrian Rogan

“How long will we keep on hearing the same old story? How many times can evidence mysteriously go missing from police custody?”

Patrick McCreanor, nephew of Dan McCreanor

“Mr Hutchinson found clear evidence of the wilful failure to keep records and overwhelming evidence of the absence of accountability. We even have the senior investigating officer refusing to speak to ombudsman investigators.”

Moira Casement, Barney Green’s niece

“A case, the families fear, of see no evil, hear no evil, report no evil.”

Niall Murphy, solicitor for the families

Belfast Telegraph

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