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Police Ombudsman report ‘devastating indictment’ says Michelle O’Neill, as SDLP claim probe reveals ‘disturbing pattern’ of past police behaviours


The scene at Sean Graham Bookmakers in 1992

The scene at Sean Graham Bookmakers in 1992

The scene at Sean Graham Bookmakers in 1992

A Police Ombudsman’s report which found "collusive behaviour" by police in 11 loyalist murders has been described as a “devastating indictment” by Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill.

Ms O’Neill said Marie Anderson’s probe showed it is “time to address the legacy of the past”, while the SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said the report showed a “disturbing pattern of police behaviours and investigations at the time”.

Eight loyalist attacks attributed to the UDA were examined in the ombudsman's 344-page report published on Tuesday.

Among the atrocities probed were the Sean Graham bookmakers massacre on the Ormeau Road in Belfast in February 1992 in which five people lost their lives.

Among her findings in a 344-page report, Ms Anderson said Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) files relating to the bookmakers massacre had been deliberately destroyed.

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Ms O’Neill said her “heart goes out” to those murdered, condemning the “clear pattern of collusion and cover-up".

While Ms Anderson found no evidence that police had received information that would have allowed them to prevent any of the attacks examined in the latest report, the ombudsman questioned why no such intelligence was received, given that Special Branch had such a network of informants within the UDA/UFF.

“The Ombudsman has found collusion in each and every killing, lives could and should have been saved but warnings about attacks being planned weren’t passed on and state agents involved in murder were allowed to kill and kill again,” said Ms O’Neill.

“And it beggars belief that the RUC handed guns back out to loyalist paramilitaries so they could be used to kill again.

“This latest report by the Ombudsman shows a clear pattern of collusion and cover-up. Evidence and documentation were destroyed, warnings were not passed on to victims.

“The Special Branch refused to pass on relevant intelligence to investigators, eyewitnesses to killings were exposed to risk with their names read out in front of suspects.

“This report is a devastating indictment of collusion between the British state and loyalist paramilitaries.”

In response to the report, the SDLP also raised “serious concerns”, with the party highlighting what they called a “culture of subversive and collusive behaviour which had infected the RUC handling of cases”.

“That points to a failing at the most senior levels of policing. It cannot be ignored or brushed under the carpet,” added Delores Kelly.

South Belfast MP Claire Hanna claimed the report makes “difficult reading”, particularly in relation to the Sean Graham bookmakers massacre within her constituency.

“It outlines a litany of appalling behaviours by police which culminated in the murder of innocent people in south Belfast and prevented the effective investigation of those murders,” she said.

“The use of informants involved in murder, the return of live weapons to active paramilitaries, the destruction of evidence and failure to disclose key intelligence.

“The inescapable conclusion of the body of evidence that the Ombudsman has brought together is that the RUC valued paramilitary informants more than they valued the safety of innocent people in South Belfast. That is a perversion of justice.”

In response to Ms Anderson’s report, temporary Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said that areas of the report made "uncomfortable reading" and apologised to the families of those killed and injured for the failings identified.

"Policing has developed enormously over the past 30 years and the Police Service of Northern Ireland now have greatly improved policies and procedures which guide our response to potential threats and how we approach criminal investigations,” ACC Roberts said.

"Intelligence handling, training and investigative standards for detectives, forensic opportunities and family liaison processes are today are unrecognisable from what was in place at the time of these attacks."

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