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27 March 2003 Edition

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Investigations delayed as NIO refuse funding

BY LAURA FRIEL

Investigations into three controversial killings will be delayed because the NIO has refused to provide the necessary funding. The decision follows recent remarks by the PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde that suggested that money spent on the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday had been a waste. Orde later apologised to the families of those killed by British paratroopers.

The NIO refusal came just two days after an announcement by the Ombudsman's Officer that they would be conducting investigations into three deaths including the killing of 16-year-old Alice McLoughlin who was shot dead 12 years ago while travelling in a RUC man's car. The officer involved is still a serving member of the PSNI.

Nuala O'Loan also announced her intention to investigate the 1997 killing of Raymond McCord, whose family believe his death was sanctioned by a Special Branch agent working within the UVF. The third investigation was into the death of a Joe Campbell, a Catholic RUC member shot dead outside the barracks in Cushendall 26 years ago.

In 1980, a member of Special Branch was arrested and questioned about the killing. He was later charged with murder and went to trial facing a total of 27 charges, including having explosives, firearms and carrying out robberies. The RUC man was found guilty of one robbery charge and possession but was acquitted of the murder. He later successfully mounted an appeal.

Commenting on his father's death, Tom Campbell said the family "believe he found out that police officers, British Army agents and loyalists were colluding in a wide range of terrorist and criminal activities in County Antrim".

"They carried out dirty-tricks operations whereby the IRA was blamed for crimes it didn't commit," said Campbell.

The Ombudsman's Office attempted to allay fears that the NIO's funding refusal will result in cancellation of the proposed investigations. A spokesperson insisted that all three probes would take place but admitted there could be a "considerable delay".

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