31 July 2003 Edition
Kelly murder case reopened - Family reject new probe and demand independent review
BY ÁINE Ní BHRIAIN
The family of an independent nationalist councillor, Patrick Kelly, who was assassinated 29 years ago, have said they will not cooperate with a new PSNI inquiry and are demanding an independent judicial review into the killing.
Patrick Kelly, a 33-year-old father of three, disappeared on 24 July 1974, after locking up the Corner Bar in the village of Trillick, Co Tyrone. Later that same night, bloodstains, shirt buttons, and cartridge cases were found on the roadside a mile from the town.
Kelly's body was not found until three weeks later, after a fisherman spotted something on the surface of Lough Eyes in County Fermanagh, nearly ten miles away. Kelly had been shot several times and there were two 56lb agricultural weights tied to his body. The UDA later claimed responsibility for the killing.
To date, no one has been arrested, questioned or charged with the death of the independent councillor, but nationalists have long asserted that UDR checkpoints were operating in the area on the night Kelly disappeared.
Then, in 1999, a former UDR man reportedly broke down in public and confessed to witnessing the murder. The man is said to have wept openly in a bar before naming six of his fellow UDR members as participants in the killing.
This past Tuesday, 29 July, the PSNI suddenly announced they would reopen the investigation, but they have neglected to reveal why.
One of those expected to be questioned is former DUP Assembly member Oliver Gibson, who is also a former UDR soldier. Gibson says he has "nothing to hide" and insisted that any suggestions that he knew something about the killing were groundless.
"I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear," he said. "As far as I am concerned there is no story to do with me in all this. I do not believe I am a suspect of any kind. The best thing at the moment is for me to say nothing and let the PSNI get on with it."
In the meantime, Kelly's brother, Omagh Sinn Féin councillor Peter Kelly, says that the PSNI decision to reopen the case came "totally out of the blue" and that his family has no faith in its outcome.
"We are not happy to cooperate with this," said Kelly this week, "I'm dumbfounded, to be honest. The first I knew about this was when a reporter contacted me. It's a bit of a shock. The PSNI did not even have the courtesy to let anyone know this was happening."
"I would prefer an independent probe headed by a person from outside the country. As a family we have no faith in the RUC/PSNI to find and charge those responsible. It was not investigated properly when it should have been nearly thirty years ago."
The PSNI have brought in a detective, Andrew Hunter, from Tyneside in England to conduct the latest investigation, but there are concerns that the detectives working with him could be the same ones originally responsible for the case.
Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty says both Patsy Kelly's family and local people remain convinced that members of the UDR were behind the killing.
"There have been years of cover-up and obstruction by the RUC," says Doherty, "In effect, the RUC assisted Patsy Kelly's killers to escape justice. Many of those officers remain in place and the PSNI are refusing to confirm that these individuals will not be involved in any reinvestigation. There is a real fear that this latest move is nothing more than a further stalling exercise and has indeed been done without consultation with the Kelly family."
Peter Kelly agrees with Doherty's assessment.
"I've always thought there was collusion," he says. "There was a great security presence in the area at the time and something like that could not have happened without their knowledge."
Meanwhile, the family's solicitor, Pat Fahy, speaking to An Phoblacht, has also expressed his unease over the new investigation.
"We ask Andrew Hunter to supply the names of the PSNI members who are in the investigating team so that we could check that they were not involved in the original investigation but he refused to do so."
Fahy explained that Hunter said in a letter that the PSNI members were worried about their details being given out after the alleged intelligence gathering operation in the RVH in Belfast.
"All we want are the names and we said that in a letter sent to Hunter on 16 July. So far, he has not replied," said Fahy.