Belfast Telegraph

State owes Joe Campbell's family an apology, says SDLP leader

By Chris Kilpatrick

Shocking revelations that senior RUC officers failed to prevent and then properly investigate the murder of a police sergeant warrant an apology from the State, a senior politician has said.

Sgt Joe Campbell, a 49-year-old father-of-eight, was shot dead in February 1977 as he closed the main gates of Cushendall police station.

A damning report into the murder said it was likely the then Chief Constable – Sir Kenneth Newman – was among senior RUC figures aware of the threat against Sgt Campbell's life but failed to prevent his death.

His widow Rosemary welcomed the watchdog's probe but said its findings were "shamefully belated and inadequate".

The Catholic officer's family said he was targeted as he was aware of collusion between RUC officers and terrorists, and claim they know who fired the fatal shot. In response to collusion claims, Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said he could not "discount nor substantiate the allegations of a wider conspiracy".

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell, who knew Sgt Campbell, said the damning report compiled by Dr Maguire demanded an apology from the British Government.

"While the Ombudsman's report has gone some way in exposing the conspiracy inside and outside the RUC with regard to Joe Campbell's murder, it is understandable the Campbell family are far from satisfied that there is no mention of collusion surrounding the terrible death of their loved one," said Dr McDonnell.

"I am sickened by the realisation now that suspicions of 37 years ago have been somewhat realised. However, this report raises more questions than answers and there is a need for Government, and others, to make an apology to Joe Campbell's family... and the way in which it added insult to injury in those 37 years."

The officer's son, Joe Campbell jnr, who first lodged the complaint with the Ombudsman's Office in 2002, said the family would continue to fight to expose what they claim was a plot to kill their father to protect rogue police.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said the latest report from the Police Ombudsman highlighted the need to implement the Haass proposals on dealing with the past.

"Once again, like other investigations into collusion and wrongdoing by the RUC, former officers have refused to co-operate with the Ombudsman and key files have been destroyed," he added.

A number of former officers declined to assist the watchdog's investigation. The Chief Constable at the time of the murder said he had no recollection of the case.

Sir Kenneth went on to become Metropolitan Police Commissioner after he left the RUC.

"The impact of the murder of Joe Campbell reverberated throughout RUC at the time, I was surprised the Chief Constable did not recollect it," Dr Maguire said yesterday. "There is no doubt in my mind that the Campbell family were failed by the RUC."

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