11 September 2003 Edition
RUC collusion in Rosemary Nelson killing
BY LAURA FRIEL
TWO FORMER RUC members have been questioned by the Port inquiry team over allegations that they threatened the life of the Lurgan defence lawyer Rosemary Nelson and may have colluded in her death.
Nelson died in a loyalist car bombing in March 1999. The circumstances of her death mirrored those accompanying that of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane ten years earlier. In both cases, death threats by members of the RUC Special Branch preceded the killings.
Information that two former RUC members had been questioned in connection with the killing surfaced as relatives of Rosemary Nelson were told that the Port inquiry was finished, despite the failure to secure any convictions.
It is understood that the two RUC suspects were questioned following claims by a convicted loyalist killer that two named RUC officers had asked him to have Rosemary Nelson shot dead.
Loyalist Trevor McKeown (41) first made the claim to a newspaper earlier this year. McKeown said that, in 1997, during an interrogation regarding an unrelated sectarian killing, the RUC members questioning him offered to pass on the Lurgan solicitor's personal details to have her killed.
McKeown's allegations were initially believed to have been linked to a bid to overturn his current conviction, but Rosemary Nelson's family have recently discovered that the officers named by McKeown were two of a number of RUC personnel questioned six years ago, after the solicitor filed a complaint against RUC threats to her life.
An internal RUC investigation followed the complaint but was subsequently discredited. Later a team headed by London Metropolitan Commander Niall Mulvihill was sent to investigate the complaint.
Mulvihill's team questioned a number of RUC members, but his report was never made public. No action was taken, on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Following McKeown's allegations, the two former RUC members agreed to be interviewed by the Port team, but denied the loyalist's claims.
Rosemary's sister Bernie said the family had first wondered if McKeown was "trying to tell a story for his own ends'', but later, "when we heard that he named names which were in the Mulvihill report, we were concerned''.
The family was recently informed that the Port investigation had ended. Commenting, a spokesperson for the family said that they were disappointed, but not surprised that it appeared that no one would be prosecuted for Nelson's murder.
"It had been the family's view for some time that the Port investigation was not going to expose collusion in the case, nor was it going to bring people to justice.''
The family went on to say that, in their opinion, there is extensive evidence suggesting collusion in the murder and that they are placing their trust in the inquiry being undertaken by Judge Cory. The retired Canadian Supreme Court Judge is currently examining six controversial cases, to determine if there is evidence of collusion sufficient enough to lead a public inquiry.