Police ‘forced’ man to identify mutilated body of murdered nephew, court told
Police effectively forced the uncle of a teenage murder victim to identify the badly mutilated body against his will, the High Court has heard.
Alan Steele also claimed officers did not care because they wrongly believed his dead nephew, David McIlwaine, was a member of the Loyalist Volunteer Force.
Mr Steele made the allegations as part of his negligence case against the Chief Constable for psychological injuries he says were inflicted by the identification process.
His 18-year-old nephew was stabbed to death along with Andrew Robb (19) in February 2000. Their bodies were dumped by a road near Tandragee, Co Armagh.
The double killing came weeks after alleged Ulster Volunteer Force leader Richard Jameson was shot dead in nearby Portadown.
Giving evidence in his claim for damages, Mr Steele said a police sergeant had asked him to identify Mr McIlwaine because his parents could not be contacted.
It was stressed in court how Mr McIlwaine had no paramilitary or criminal connections.
Mr Steele, who told of suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, said he was still hoping the victim's father Paul would arrive by the time he got to the mortuary.
He claimed a senior detective approached him and repeated a warning about how the parents would find out if he did not go through with the process.
“I said to him this was wrong; I shouldn't be doing this, Paul should be doing this.
“I felt that I was stealing from Paul,” Mr Steele told the court.
“I asked him to wait for Paul. He just walked away from me.
“I was crying, I was shaking.”
Questioned by his barrister, Ronnie Bentley QC, Mr Steele alleged he was not told about the injuries inflicted on the victims.
Clearly emotional in the witness box, he recalled: “He was stabbed about the head. The head was covered in blood.
“They had cut off part of his face and I could see into his skull.
“Because he had lost so much blood it was like a skeleton.”
During cross-examination by David Ringland QC, for the Chief Constable, he denied being “obsessed” by a search for justice since the murder.
But Mr Ringland pointed to expert medical opinion which he said suggested “bitterness and seething anger” connected to Mr Steele's belief in a police cover-up.
Mr Ringland insisted that the senior detective's evidence would be that at the stage of identifying the bodies no paramilitary connection had been established.
Pressing further, the barrister claimed that Mr Steele had in fact volunteered to identify the teen’s body.
Mr Ringland, who also insisted the injuries were made clear to Mr Steele in advance, added: “What you have said is that you were really forced to go to the morgue.
“I have to put it to you that quite the opposite situation prevailed when you were approached.”
According to a senior mortuary technician sheets of paper were also covering the most severely part of the victims face, Mr Ringland added.
But Mr Steele insisted: “That's an absolute lie.”
The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.