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17 April 2003 Edition

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Loyalist linked to Rosemary Nelson killing

It has been revealed that the RUC had hoped to charge a prominent unionist paramilitary in connection with the murder of Lurgan solicitor Rosemary Nelson four years ago.

Details of the allegations are contained in a judicial review which has been submitted to the High Court by the Belfast-based Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ).

The CAJ is still waiting for a court ruling on its bid to gain full access to the Nelson case files, but it has accused the RUC/PSNI of failing to fully probe the many threats that had been issued to Rosemary Nelson prior to her killing.

It has emerged that the RUC wanted to charge a unionist paramilitary - who cannot yet be identified - in connection with the killing. The man had produced a hate-filled pamphlet that included the solicitor's home address and telephone number more than six months prior to her death.

Before she was killed, Rosemary claimed that RUC officers had made repeated threats to her life and the lives of her family. In spite of this and other threats, the British government refused to place her on the key persons' protection scheme.

In March 1999, Rosemary Nelson died when her car, which had been booby-trapped with a sophisticated car bomb, exploded near her Lurgan home. The Red Hand Defenders, a well-known cover name for the UDA, later claimed responsibility for the attack.

In lieu of a full independent inquiry, the British state called in English Police Chief Constable Colin Port to head an investigation into the solicitor's killing.

Four years later, not a single person has been charged in connection with her death and Port has announced he is stepping down, sparking fears that the invesigation is effectively being shelved.

However, according to the recent dossier, Port suspected a leading unionist paramilitary named only as "P" and was set to charge the man with being a member of the Red Hand Defenders, allowing his house to be used for terrorism, and being heavily involved in the killing.

Detectives questioned the man but it is understood the Department of Public Prosecutions decided there was "insufficient evidence" to pursue the matter. This week, Port declined comment.

Judgment was reserved after the case was heard at the High Court. A spokeperson for CAJ said it would not be making any comment until a ruling was issued.

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