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15 June 2006 Edition

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Collusion: Families angered at destruction of evidence

BY Aran Foley

Loughinisland - evidence of collusion mounts

It has been 12 years since the UVF carried out the massacre in The Heights bar in Loughinisland. It occurred as crowds had gathered to watch Ireland play Italy in the World Cup. As another World Cup began last week, painful memories have flooded back for the relatives of those killed. These memories are all the more painful because the families now believe that the RUC and later the PSNI were involved in covering up the mass murder.

The sectarian slaugher on 18 June 1994 took the lives of Adrian Rogan 34, Daniel McCreanor 59, Patrick O'Hare 35, Malcom Jenkinson 53, Eamon Byrne 39 and the oldest person to be killed in the conflict, Barney Green 87. Six weeks later workers from the Department of the Environment reported a suspicious holdall to the RUC. It was found to contain three pistols, three balaclavas, three sets of gloves, three boiler suits and a magazine for a rifle. Nearby an assault rifle was found.

RUC destroyed attack car

Recent disclosures have revealed that the car used in the attack was supplied by an RUC Special Branch agent, codenamed 'Mechanic'. The agent was a member of the Mount Vernon UVF and an explosives expert who participated in the 1997 bomb attack on the Sinn Féin offices in Monaghan. He was also a close associate of Mark Haddock, another British agent working in the UVF.

Relatives have been incensed to discover that the car, a red Triumph Acclaim, was destroyed by the RUC in 1996. Effectively the car was supplied by an RUC agent and then destroyed by the RUC. These facts flatly contradict a PSNI statement of 11 October 2005 that all aspects of the trail pertaining to the car were followed up. They now suspect collusion between the killers and Special Branch pointing to the persistent refusal of the PSNI to deny that any of the suspects were intelligence sources citing the official secrets act.

Another aspect pointing to collusion arises from an 11 October 2005 meeting the families and their legal representatives held with the PSNI. During a bizarre encounter, a DSI Williamson stated he wanted to answer the families questions but then went on to refuse to answer them citing legal reasons. However he inadvertently revealed that the weapon used was one of a batch smuggled into Ireland in the late 1980s by British agent Brian Nelson.

On the advice of the RUC and later the PSNI the families remained silent so as not to alert the killers. The revelation about the car was the final straw and they now feel that their dignified stance has been abused by the PSNI.

Ombudsman complaint

0n 21 March the families instructed their legal team, Kevin Winters & Co. to lodge a complaint with the Six County Police Ombudsman. The matters they are raising include the fact that despite developments in the field of DNA, particularly since 1997, none of the 177 exhibits in the case were re-examined until April 2005. This may never have happened at all were it not for pressure exerted by the families. The results have not been released. They were promised arrests after the forensic review of the case. Eight months elapsed before two people were arrested and released without charge 6 June 2006 in what the families regard as a PR exercise in response to mounting pressure

Other matters raised are: the continued denial to the families of ballistic information on the weapons used despite precedents for this; the consistent failure to deny that any of the suspects were intelligence sources; the consistent mismanagement of exhibits in the case to the extent that the car used in the attack was destroyed thus destroying potentially valuable forensic evidence; that transcripts of helicopter logs and troop patrols have yet to be analysed; and the fact that the families believe that vehicle check points were strategically placed on the night to allow the killers to escape.

Sinn Féin MLA for South Down Caitriona Ruane pointed to the similarity between Loughinisland attack and the UDA massacre at Greysteel on 31 October 1993 during which seven people were killed. It was subsequently revealed that one of the participants Torrens Knight was also a Special Branch agent. This, says the MLA, is indicative of how agents were being used.

Ruane pledged to do all she can to support the families and said "no stone must be left unturned in the ombudsman's inquiry. The families need answers about the destruction of the car and the other concerns they have raised. There is a strong suspicion of state collusion in this case which must be answered".

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