25 March 2004 Edition

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Hamills let down again

The Hamill family have spoken of their shock after the collapse of a court case against a former RUC member and two others arising out of an investigation into the murder of their brother, Robert Hamill, in Portadown.

The charges of perverting the course of justice against former RUC member Robert Atkinson, Eleanor Atkinson and Kenneth Hanvey from Derryanvil Road, Portadown has been dropped following the failure of a key witness to testify.

Charges against the ex-RUC man and his wife related to a telephone call to the home of an alleged suspect hours after Hamill was beaten by a loyalist mob yards from an RUC Land Rover in April 1997. The couple were alleged to have conspired with others, including Andrea McKee, to pervert the course of justice by giving false information to the RUC.

Kenneth Hanvey was accused of giving false information by saying Michael McKee had made the telephone call from the house.

Michael McKee from Pineview Heights, Gilford, County Down, and Andrea McKee from Garden Village, Wrexham, pleaded guilty to giving false information about the call in 2002. Their admission of guilt resulted in charges being brought against the trio.

Andrea McKee was to be a key witness in the trial, but the prosecution told Craigavon Magistrates Court on Friday 19 March that the explanation McKee gave for not attending a hearing last December was "such as to undermine her general credibility in relation to the charges before the court and accordingly the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has concluded there is no longer a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction".

Diane Hamill said her family was in total shock as they were given to believe the RUC man and his wife would be prosecuted for conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

"Almost seven years since Robert was killed, the injustice remains steadfast," she said. "We can only hope the inquiry that should be established under the recommendations of Canadian Judge Peter Corey report will reveal the full details of the consistent failures to bring prosecutions in this case."

The Hamill family solicitor, Barra McCrory, said he will be contacting the DPP. "We will now expect the section of Judge Cory's report dealing with this case will be published in full as the prosecution has collapsed," he said.


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