Belfast Telegraph

Police chief set to give evidence

Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris may be summoned to explain the purpose of 'legacy information seminars'
Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris may be summoned to explain the purpose of 'legacy information seminars'

Northern Ireland's deputy chief constable could be called to give evidence at the inquest of a pensioner killed by loyalists, a coroner's court has been told.

Drew Harris may be summoned to explain the purpose of "legacy information seminars" when the stalled inquest examining the death of Roseann Mallon resumes next January.

High Court Judge Mr Justice Weir, who is hearing the long-delayed case, told a preliminary hearing in Belfast: "Mr Harris will provisionally be required, subject to what may emerge in his evidence in the Stalker/Sampson case, following which another witness may be required on this issue or no witness may be required."

The legacy seminars, organised by now retired deputy chief constable Judith Gillespie, were held at the Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI) leisure complex at New Forge in south Belfast and were facilitated by the Retired Police Officers Association in Northern Ireland.

Mr Harris previously told a meeting of the Policing Board he had attended two of the meetings, chairing one.

He insisted they were "positive" and aimed at encouraging former officers to engage in legacy matters, including coroners' inquests.

The senior officer is expected to be quizzed about the issue when he gives evidence in Belfast High Court later this month at a hearing probing the deaths of six men killed in an alleged security force shoot-to-kill policy during the 1980s.

Ms Mallon, 76, was gunned down by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) as she watched television at a relative's house near Dungannon, Co Tyrone, in 1994.

The spinster, who had been staying there because she felt vulnerable, was unable to escape when the two gunmen indiscriminately opened fire on the bungalow at Cullenrammer Road.

The UVF said its mid-Ulster brigade had been responsible and were targeting two of her nephews Christopher Mallon, who was not home at the time, and Martin Mallon, who lived half-a-mile away.

In the wake of the shooting, Army spying equipment was found in a nearby field sparking claims of security force collusion.

Her inquest was adjourned last December to allow the police's Historical Enquiries Team (HET) to examine 17 murders and seven attempted murders in east Tyrone between 1988 and the year of her death.

Further forensic examination was also carried out on the weapon but has failed to generate any more evidential opportunities, the court heard.

Sean Doran QC, barrister for the Coroner's Service, said a tranche of material including statements relating to the legacy seminars, descriptions of their purpose and written notes had been disclosed to the Mallon family's legal team.

But the judge said a letter should be sent to the PSNI asking them to ensure everything had been handed over.

He said: "Initially I was told there was nothing, nobody made any notes - these were tea parties.

"What I wouldn't like to happen is for it suddenly to appear that there is more material.

"When someone tells me that there is no material then it turns out there is material I do want to be assured that this is all of it."

Meanwhile, it was also revealed that the Mallon family had hired their own firearms expert to examine the Czech-bought assault rifle used in the killing.

Barry Macdonald QC, representing the next of kin, said: "It's just to allay any suspicion as much as anything else."

The inquest is due to resume on January 12 2015, with a final review scheduled for December 15.

Judge Weir said: "This is a very old death.

"The family members (and I do not mean any disrespect) are not in the first flush of youth and they deserve to have the matter concluded.

"That is why I am really anxious that should not have any interference with the proposed date."


From Belfast Telegraph