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18 April 2002 Edition

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Roseanne Mallon Inquest hearing adjourned


A preliminary inquest hearing into the death of County Tyrone pensioner Roseanne Mallon in 1994 was adjourned this week after it was discovered that evidence from British soldiers at the scene at the time of the shooting had not been provided to the court.

Six undercover British soldiers engaging in a covert operation immediately reported hearing gunfire but were told not to intervene. Two months after the shooting, in which the 76-year-old spinster died, the discovery of secret surveillance equipment exposed the presence of British soldiers and their tape recording operation.

Detectives investigating the killing had not been informed of the soldiers' presence or the existence of hours of video tape recordings and logbook records. When the tapes and records finally emerged, hours of video recorded on the day before the killing had already been wiped and logbooks were 'missing'.

The inquest hearing opened in Cookstown on Tuesday 16 April only to be immediately adjourned until 13 June. It emerged that the soldiers' statements were not amongst paperwork that is to be provided for the full hearing.

A barrister for the Coroner described it as 'inconceivable' that the PSNI/RUC had not supplied the statement, as they are required by law to provide all relevant material.

Coroner Roger McLernon said he found it difficult to understand why documents that had previously been given to the Mallon family during civil court proceedings had not been made available to the inquest.

The Mallon family's solicitor, Martin Donaghy, criticised the PSNI/RUC for failing to disclose the documents relating to the soldiers that they have in their possession.

A lawyer from the British Ministry of Defence suggested that it was possible that points raised in a civil case might not be directly relevant to the inquest.

The failure to produce statements by British soldiers made at the scene at the time of the killing follows a recent European Court ruling critical of the practice of Crown forces witnesses to submit statements without being present during inquests into controversial killings.

Significantly, the documents in question, while as yet not available to the Coroner's Court, have been in the hands of the media for over a week. Next week, An Phoblacht considers the soldier's statements, the implications of their covert operation, and the wider circumstances around the killing of Roseanne Mallon. Just who has what to hide?

An Phoblacht
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