31 October 2002 Edition

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Thompsom family denied access to murder file

Members of the family of Kathleen Thompson, the Derry mother-of-six shot dead in the back garden of her home by a British soldier in November 1971, went to Strand Road PSNI barracks in Derry on Friday last to view the RUC investigation file into her death.

After prolonged attempts to see the file, during which the family were told by the RUC that no file could be found, only for the file to appear just hours before a television program on the question of its existence was broadcast and then apparently disappear again, the Thompson family were promised that they would be given full access to the file at 11am on Friday.

When the family arrived, however, all they were shown was a collection of statements taken from the Inquest papers. The PSNI officers present claimed that other papers existed, but were 'not available' to the family today. They claimed that some, unspecified, documents would be sent to their solicitors at some time in the future. The Thompson family walked out of the barracks without being given, or even shown, anything to prove that police investigation into their mother's death was ever carried out.

Speaking afterwards, Mary Louise Thompson said:

"We walked into Strand Road expecting to get access to the RUC investigation file into the murder of our mother. We didn't. We walked in expecting, like other families, to get copies of documents that they said they were making available to us. We didn't. We expected to be able to see what documentation the RUC held on file. We were denied access. We were told the information was 'confidential'. We were shown no shred of evidence of there ever having been any RUC investigation into the murder of our mother, and yet the PSNI were adamant that there had been. We are now more convinced than ever that there was no proper investigation.

"The PSNI's attitude was an insult to us and to the memory of our mother. Their attitude today is no different from the RUC's 31 years ago."

"It has already been revealed that, in direct contradiction of international human rights law, it was accepted practice at the time for the RUC not to investigate killings by the army but to leave this to other soldiers. The existence of a 'gentleman's agreement' to this effect has already emerged at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry in a statement from a British Army officer:

"Back in 1970 a decision was reached between the GOC and the Chief Constable whereby RMP (Royal Military Police) would tend to military witnesses and the RUC to civilian witnesses in the investigation of offences and incidents. With both RMP and RUC sympathetic to the soldier, who after all was doing an incredibly difficult job, he was highly unlikely to make a statement incriminating himself...It was equally unlikely that RUC would prefer charges against soldiers except in the most extreme circumstances."

Further evidence of exactly how the army 'investigated' itself was due to be given to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry on Monday. In his written statement, a soldier known only as INQ 2052, who was a member of the army Special investigation branch in Derry in 1972, described such an investigation:

"I interviewed the soldier wherever his unit was located... It was not a very formal procedure. I always wore civilian clothing and the soldier was usually relaxed. We usually discussed the incident over sandwiches and tea... We did not check weapons or indeed ask any questions about weapons if our investigations concerned a soldier firing his weapon. Nor did we ask any questions regarding the yellow card. It was not our role to ascertain whether the soldier was justified in firing or whether his behaviour was lawful or unlawful; our role was merely to record the facts of the incident."

Paul O'Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre, who accompanied the family, said,: "This type of investigation, carried out "over sandwiches and tea", was never going to lead to the prosecution of any soldier for the murder of a civilian. That was the intention. In the case of Kathleen Thompson we know the army 'investigation' lasted just two hours. We have the timed and dated statements to prove it. This is obviously not acceptable, and her family will now settle for nothing less than a full, impartial and completely transparent investigation into her death. We are calling on the British government to finally institute its own policy of Glasnost, open up the files and end the culture of secrecy."

Following the non-investigation of Kathleen Thompson's murder, the family received a cheque in 1980 for £84 and seven pence.

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