Belfast Telegraph

Loyalist 'collusion' legal action: relatives deserve the dignity of knowing the truth about 1970s killing spree, court hears

By Alan Erwin

Police chiefs should be ordered to ensure completion of a major investigation into suspected state collusion with a loyalist unit behind more than 100 murders, the High Court heard today.

A judge was told victims' relatives deserve the dignity of knowing the truth about a killing-spree spanning most of the 1970s.

A draft report into alleged security force collaboration with the so-called Genanne gang was said to have been 80% finalised before being shelved.

Danny Friedman QC said: "It's not the job of members of civil society, interested parties and bereaved families to put the jigsaw together.

"That is the job of the respondent (the PSNI) at this stage and that's why we bring the claim."

The legal challenge against the Chief Constable for an alleged failure to complete an overarching, thematic inquiry and report through the Historial Enquiries Team (HET) has been brought by the brother of one schoolboy victim. 

Patrick Barnard, 13, was one of four people who died in a bomb at the Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon, Co Tyrone in March 1976.

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

Claims of security force collusion continue to surround the catalogue of killings carried out in the Mid Ulster and Irish border areas.

Up to 120 murders in nearly 90 incidents are under scrutiny.

They include atrocities 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.

Bereaved relatives packed into the largest of the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast for the start of a two-day hearing.

With the HET now effectively shut down, Patrick's brother, Edward Barnard, wants a judge to compel police to complete the full investigation and publish the findings.

His London-based barrister claimed a thematic report was promised into the "inextricable" links between a set of cases from 1972-79.

Failure to deliver amounted to a breach of a legitimate expectation and contravened human rights requirements, it was contended.

According to Mr Friedman investigative journalist Anne Cadwallader's book 'Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland' has put part of the picture together.

But even though a draft version of the HET report has been supplied on a confidential basis, he insisted this was not enough.

"Never properly have these links been recognised at an official state level," he said.

"In effect, we are asking the court to order the respondent to finish what it regarded through it's agency as necessary and has already started."

Amid details about individual cases, Mr Justice Treacy was told the same British Army sub-machine gun was used to carry out many of the killings.

"What these families need is a product put together by this respondent at this stage to show, on the basis of viewing material that was in the control of the state, what it knows about state agent involvement," Mr Friedman argued.

The case continues.

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