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28 March 2002 Edition

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Portadown beating mirrors Hamill killing

BY LAURA FRIEL


In an attack reminiscent of the killing of Robert Hamill, another Portadown Catholic is seriously injured after being beaten unconscious and repeatedly kicked in the head by a loyalist mob.

Brian Rouse remains seriously ill after undergoing a series of emergency operations to remove bone fragments from his skull that have penetrated his brain. The 45-year-old lorry driver was attacked by a loyalist mob as he was walking home after a night out in the town. He was initially hit from behind with what is believed to have been a fencing post wrapped in barbed wire.

Having beaten their victim to the ground, the mob of around 30 loyalists repeatedly kicked the stricken man in the head, continuing even after he had lost consciousness.

The attack took place shortly before 2am in the early hours of Sunday morning as Rouse crossed a car parking area in Woodhouse Street and made his way towards the nearby Catholic Obins area of Portadown. It was just a few yards away from where Robert Hamill and a companion had been attacked by a loyalist mob in 1997. Hamill never regained consciousness and died twelve days later.

On both occasions, the loyalist mob was able to single out their victim as a Catholic because of the direction they were walking away from the town after a Saturday night out.

During the 1997 attack, a female cousin of Robert Hamill had thrown herself across his unconscious body in a desperate attempt to shield him from further blows. During this most recent incident, a witness to the attack, a young Catholic woman, also intervened and attempted to shield the injured man's head. The loyalist mob beat her about the head and face.

Robert Hamill was kicked to death just a few yards away from a RUC mobile patrol. The failure of the armed RUC patrol to intervene during the attack or arrest members of the mob who carried out the fatal beating is one of a number of controversial circumstances that have led the dead man's family to call for a public inquiry.

It is possible that the attack on Brian Rouse also took place under the watchful eyes of the PSNI/RUC but as in the Hamill case no attempt was made to intervene during the attack. The car park in which the incident took place is under 24-hour CCTV surveillance, monitored from the local barracks. Despite this, the PSNI/RUC arrived at the scene only after the loyalist mob had dispersed.

The injured man was subsequently rushed to the nearby Craigavon Hospital but was later transferred to a hospital in Belfast for further emergency surgery. Brian Rouse has regained consciousness but the full extent of his injuries is still being assessed. Permanent brain damage, which may include some persistent paralysis, has been mooted as a likely corollary to his injuries.

The attack on Brian Rouse is the latest and most serious incident involving loyalist mob in Portadown in recent weeks. On two previous successive weekends, two young Catholic men were beaten and one badly slashed with a Stanley knife during loyalist gang attacks.
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