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Security officers aided sectarian murders

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Security officers 'aided sectarian murders' in Ulster
By Alan Erwin, PA News
17 April 2003

Rogue elements in the security forces were involved in a deadly plot with loyalist paramilitaries to carry out a series of sectarian murders in Northern Ireland, a devastating new report confirmed today.

Following a four–year inquiry into allegations of widespread collusion between Special Branch, Army officers and Protestant terrorists, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Sevens concluded there was damning proof of the use of agents in assassinations and the withholding evidence.

Sir John, whose inquiries centred on the shooting of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane by the Ulster Defence Association in February 1989, said that his killing and the death of Protestant student Brian Adam Lambert in November 1987 could have been prevented.

Launching his report at a press conference, Sir John said his three investigations had been "wilfully obstructed and misled".

He added: "From day one this obstruction was cultural in its nature and widespread within parts of the Army and RUC, the FRU, and RUC Special Branch in particular."

He said rumours and counter–rumours had been spread, "deliberately designed to throw us off course".

Echoing his comments in the report, his inquiries have been the largest investigation ever undertaken in the UK, he said: "It should not have taken 14 years to get to the point we are now.

"None of us are above the law and no future inquiry should have to be conducted in the way we have had to conduct ours."

He said it was "essential to the fight against terrorism here and elsewhere" that his 21 recommendations were implemented in full.

Sir John said: "I will be coming back with Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary next January to audit and see they have been enacted."

Sir John's main report, handed over to PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde, runs to thousands of pages.

The public report is just 20 pages long. Sir John accepted it was short but said it was "robust".

He said the public report could not go into detail because of the nature of ongoing investigations and further possible criminal charges and prosecutions.

He said every single point was supported by evidence and supported by documentation.

He said he had handed over the full report to retired Canadian judge Peter Corry, who has been asked by the Government to assess whether there should be a public inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane.

Sinn Fein said there had to be nothing less than a full international judicial inquiry, which they claimed was needed to get to the heart of British military policy.

Alex Maskey, the party's Lord Mayor of Belfast said: "This is not about rogue elements within the British system. It is about a state policy sanctioned at the highest level."

In his report Sir John said: "My inquiries have highlighted collusion, the wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, and the extreme of agents being involved in murder.

"These serious acts and omissions have meant that people have been killed or seriously injured."

Sir John also set out how his investigation – the third since he was first brought in to examine collusion claims in 1989 – have been obstructed.

He added: "I have uncovered enough evidence to lead me to believe that the murders of Patrick Finucane and Brian Adam Lambert could have been prevented.

"I also believe that the RUC investigation of Patrick Finucane's murder should have resulted in the early arrest and detection of his killers."

During the biggest investigation of its kind ever mounted in Britain, Sir John found that members of the Army's covert Force Research Unit and the police Special Branch were guilty of a major lack of accountability by failing to keep records.

"The unlawful involvement of agents in murder implies that the security forces sanction killings," the Stevens report said.

18 April 2003 20:35

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© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

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