Belfast Telegraph

Murdered RUC officer's son rejects watchdog finding that there was no collusion


Gavin Larmour, son of murdered RUC officer John Larmour
Gavin Larmour, son of murdered RUC officer John Larmour
The scene of the shooting at an ice cream parlour on the Lisburn Road in 1988
George Larmour with his brother John (on left) as young boys
George Larmour today
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The son of an RUC man who was gunned down in a Belfast ice cream parlour in 1988 has attacked a Police Ombudsman investigation report after it found no evidence that other officers colluded in the murder of their colleague.

Constable John Larmour was shot dead by the IRA in October 1988 at Barnam's on the Lisburn Road.

No one has ever been prosecuted for the murder, and a previous Ombudsman's report published in 2008 found the police investigation of the attack was "not thorough" and that "not all information had been passed to detectives".

Gavin Larmour, who was just 13 at the time of his father's murder, said he was left "bitterly disappointed and frustrated" that it had taken over 14 years since his initial complaint for the Ombudsman to tell him nothing different.

Mr Larmour had brought new information to the Police Ombudsman's office and separately made a range of allegations implicating RUC Special Branch officers and police informants in the killing.

The allegations made links to a series of other murders and terrorist incidents over a 17-year period.

Despite more than a decade of putting evidence together to present to the Ombudsman's office, Mr Larmour said he is no nearer to getting justice for his father.

"I have never had any truth or justice and this report doesn't change that at all," said Mr Larmour.

More than 40 witnesses, many of whom were retired police officers, were interviewed as part of the investigation, which also looked at case papers and forensic files and examined intelligence held by police.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said in the report: "We found no evidence to suggest that Special Branch, or any other element within the RUC aided, abetted, counselled or procured John Larmour's murder, nor that they could they have prevented it.

"Similarly, we found no evidence to support allegations that police failed to charge suspects in the murder or that they protected IRA members from being brought to justice."

The Police Ombudsman's office did establish that one of the weapons used to kill Constable Larmour was likely to have been originally owned by the RUC.

"PSNI records do not show to whom it was issued nor are they able to establish if it was ever lost or stolen," Dr Maguire said.

Mr Larmour, though, said he simply can't believe the history of the weapon was untraceable.

"We're talking about a police force who had a duty of care to the public over the handling of weapons. Surely they are keeping track of them?

"I'm left feeling like I've been pulling teeth for 10 years for nothing. This is simply a rehash of the previous Ombudsman report.

"It's extremely disappointing for me and my family.

"Looking at the report, my view is that it's a cynical exercise in getting rid of me. But people should know that the truth will come out in the end and this was a chance to tell it.

"It seems to have been all too easy to accept the official narrative. But I'm not going away."

Many of the allegations brought to the Ombudsman were underpinned by a belief that there was a fraught relationship between Special Branch and Constable Larmour, and as a consequence some of its officers became complicit in his murder.

The Police Ombudsman investigation found that "something of a fractious relationship almost certainly developed" between the two.

However, it found that the weight of evidence did not support an allegation that a charge of perverting the course of justice made against Constable Larmour was initiated by police in order to get rid of him from the force.

Nor did it substantiate an allegation that Constable Larmour intervened to stop a robbery being carried out by police informants, that the police then sought to protect from justice.

Police Ombudsman investigators also considered a complaint that Constable Larmour and colleagues were prevented from intervening in a terrorist attack in which an off-duty UDR soldier was killed.

They spoke to a number of the officer's colleagues.

The officers had little or no recollection of the incident and there was a general view that their unit would not have been tasked to such an incident.

It was alleged that Special Branch officers who had been secretly recording meetings in an IRA 'safe house' during a period between 1988 and 1989, had heard Constable Larmour's murder being planned but allowed it to go ahead.

It was further alleged that officers listened afterwards, heard a number of men discuss what happened, but rather than passing this information to detectives investigating the killing, used it to recruit one of these men as a police informant.

"This allegation was based on the existence of secret recordings in IRA 'safe houses'," said Dr Maguire.

"Police have told us they have insufficient records to establish if the covert listening and recording referred to took place."

Another allegation was made that a member of the public made admissions to police of his involvement in events leading up to the murder, but that the RUC ensured this was not investigated properly.

Police Ombudsman investigators uncovered evidence that this person had been receiving psychiatric treatment at the time he spoke to police, and that it was the DPP which decided it could not rely on the admissions he made.

The Police Ombudsman investigation found no evidence to support an allegation that the IRA murder of a retired police officer - whom it was alleged was going to provide a member of the Larmour family with sensitive information - was linked to the constable's murder.

Constable Larmour's brother George said he "never believed the Ombudsman would be allowed to find any evidence".

"I'm not surprised they say there are 'insufficient records' for the Ombudsman to investigate. In my view the truth will never be admitted and remain hidden," he said.

"This report is the meaningless document I always expected it would be.

"I already had no faith in the Historical Enquiries Team.

"That's why I wrote my own version of what I believe to be the truth in my book in 2016, They Killed The Ice Cream Man.

"And I stand by my version of what I believe to be the truth," he said.

"My brother was assassinated by the IRA in 1988 and I consider the report by the Police Ombudsman to be essentially a character assassination of my brother John."

Gun used in slaying 'belonged to Army'

Constable John Larmour (42) was off-duty and helping out at his brother's ice cream parlour in south Belfast when he was shot dead by the IRA in October 1988.

His son Gavin, who was just 13 years old at the time of the murder, believes it was not properly investigated to protect a high-level republican informer, and made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman.

An Ombudsman's report in 2008 found the initial police investigation of the attack was not thorough and that not all information had been passed to detectives.

Gavin claimed the gunman was recruited as a police agent after detectives presented him with evidence that would have led to his conviction for the killing.

One of the guns, a Browning 9mm, used in the attack on Barnam's World of Ice Cream on Belfast's Lisburn Road in October 1988, belonged to Corporal Derek Wood, who was murdered by the Provos alongside Corporal David Howes after they drove into the path of an IRA funeral in March 1988.

Their weapons were taken by the IRA during the attack.

The gun was later discovered in Germany, where it was believed to have been used in IRA operations on mainland Europe.

A second gun used in the attack was identical to a gun used by loyalist killer Michael Stone when he attacked the funeral of three IRA members shot by the SAS in Gibraltar.

George Larmour, brother of the victim, published his book They Killed The Ice Cream Man in 2016 about his quest for the truth.

Belfast Telegraph


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