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4 September 1997 Edition

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Inquest dismissed as charade

By Michael McCracken

The official inquest into the murder of three Belfastmen by a British undercover unit was dismissed by the relatives of the three as a ``charade'' because of its restricted scope of investigation.

The relatives said the inquest, held on 1 September, was fatally flawed because of its failure to query the suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths.

Relatives of the three men killed now say they will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Peter Thompson, John McNeill and Eddie Hale were shot by members of the British military squad 14th Field Intelligence Unit at Sean Graham's betting shop on the Falls Road in January 1990.

The Thompson family refused to attend on the basis that the North's inquest system was ``massively restricted'', and thereby unable and unwilling to examine controversial and disputed killings.

The inquest system cannot compel the soldiers to attend, it cannot return verdicts, prevents relevant information from being disclosed and gives anonymity to those wishing to give evidence whilst not directly involved in the killing.

The Thompson family stated that many facts in the case are public knowledge, but these have yet to be satisfactorily dealt with in court. ``To attend the inquest would only lend credibility to an already discredited system. It would also be disrespectful to the memory of our son and brother,'' said the family.
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