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12 June 2003 Edition

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Families appeal to UN for investigation

The families of people killed in SAS shoot-to-kill and collusion incidents in County Tyrone are calling on the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions to visit the Six Counties on a preliminary fact-finding mission to examine the controversial killings of their loved ones.

"This is the only avenue that we see open," said Martin Mallon, the nephew of Roseanne Mallon. "We have basically exhausted the inquest system. We've been there nine times in ten years. And now the PSNI and the MoD are talking about introducing certificates of immunity to protect the very people that we're trying to uncover.

"For this to ever be laid to rest and for everybody to say we know what happened, the UN needs to come in and investigate from day one right through. We want to know what level this was sanctioned within the British government."

Volunteers Tony Doris, Lawrence McNally, and Pete Ryan died on 6 June 1991, when the car they were driving through Coagh, Co Tyrone, was riddled with more than 200 bullets by SAS gunmen.

The SAS opened fire on the vehicle from more than eight positions and continued to fire for more than ten minutes before the car burst into flames. All three Volunteers were killed instantly.

Less than a year later, on Sunday 16 June 1992, another four IRA Volunteers were shot dead by the SAS in Clonoe, Co Tyrone.

Patrick Vincent, Kevin Barry O'Donnell, Sean O'Farrell and Peter Clancy had just carried out a machine gun and rifle attack on the Coalisland RUC Barracks and were dismantling the weapons when the SAS opened fire.

Again, the shooting lasted more than ten minutes and when it subsided, one injured Volunteer managed to struggle to his feet with his hands in the air to surrender. He was then shot and killed by the SAS. All four Volunteers were under the age of 23 when they died.

On 8 May 1994, Roseanne Mallon, a 76-year-old pensioner from Lisgallon, Co Tyrone, was shot dead by the UVF as she watched television in the Killymoyle home of her sister-in-law.

Roseanne was fatally injured when a gunman fired through the sitting room window of the house, striking her four or five times in the back. Two months after Roseanne's death, a neighbour accidentally stumbled across several sophisticated surveillance cameras that had been trained on the Mallon home at the time of the attack.

Roseanne's nephew, Martin Mallon, says that the state has yet to "come clean" on what the cameras were doing there.

"When the cameras were actually found, the RUC and the MoD disowned them," says Mallon, "but at a later date, when they were shown on TV, the MoD said it was their equipment and that they had been monitoring the house.

"When we took a civil case against the British government for trespassing on private property, they finally disclosed that the cameras were there when the murder took place, and that there were two covert dug-outs with three soldiers in each dugout who actually reported the shooting at ten to twelve that night and they were ordered to stay where they were and not apprehend.

"Now we are asking what they were doing there. If they were in that bunker to protect life, then why didn't they come out and do what they were supposed to do? Who ordered them to stay where they were? Why has the PSNI and MoD failed to make the video recordings made by the covert unit available? Why has no one been arrested and prosecuted for the murder of my aunt? And why has there been a total failure of the British government to respond to the questions posed?"

Over the course of the last ten years the families of those killed have tried in vain to get answers to these and other questions.

They have participated in no less than nine inquests, and have met with resistance each time in the form of lengthy and unnecessary delays, and the refusal of the PSNI and MoD to produce case files and other relevant material.

Further outrage was then added to insult when the PSNI recently claimed that - in the Coagh killing - evidence pertaining to the case had been destroyed due to "contamination" from asbestos dust during storage.

Mallon says the whole experience has been one of constant frustration.

"It's like a merry-go-round. Every time we tried an inquest we'd go around in a circle - 'This document will be ready at this stage...' and then we'd be told, 'oh, sorry, we couldn't get that document for that date...'

"It's just continuous stalling tactics all the time, to such an extent that the MoD and the PSNI are in a corner at the moment. And now the talk of 'certificates' being issued? It's a long, long, process.

"The claim that asbestos dust had 'contaminated' the files and so they had to be destroyed? The Coroner couldn't accept it or believe it either. Why weren't those documents put in safe keeping? Why weren't they copied and sealed with a health warning put on the package? We are talking about murder here. That's how important these documents would be, but now that they've been destroyed - it raises more suspicion.

"Even in the likes of the Clonoe case, they seemed to have had that much evidence prior to the shootings that they could have arrested these people and the operation could have been stalled at any time. But instead they actually set up a plan to go out and murder them. And that had to be sanctioned at a very high level. Someone within the British government had to be aware - these men didn't just take this upon themselves.

"We met with British minister Jane Kennedy and explained to her that we were very much aware of the actual loyalists who carried out the murder of my aunt, but we are not aware of who sent them in, who their handlers were. We don't know at what level of the British government the decision was taken to murder a member of my family and for what reason. That is why we are going to the UN. Hopefully, we will get an impartial hearing."

All four Sinn Féin MPs were at the news conference to show support. MP for Mid-Ulster, Martin McGuinness, said Sinn Féin strongly supports the families in their fight for the truth. "The fact that the families have had to resort to the UN is an indictment of the current inquest system and on the obstruction policy adopted by the PSNI," he said. "The PSNI are continuing along the RUC route of concealment, cover-up and secrecy.

"In light of this obstruction and the fact that we are a decade on from the killings, the families feel that the only way that the circumstances can be investigated satisfactorily is through this sort of UN intervention."

Meanwhile, Martin Mallon says he is thankful to Mark Thompson and everyone in the Falls Road office of Relatives for Justice for all the work they've done for the families and the people of Tyrone, but he admits that even ten years after the killing of his aunt, his family is still fearful of reprisals.

"The likes of my sister and my mother, they would still be afraid to come out in public or be seen in public speaking about it, even at this stage, because they still see it as a real threat. Things haven't changed that much."
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