A set up
BY LAURA FRIEL
Ten years ago next month, Sam Marshall was walking home with two other men when they were confronted by masked gunmen who opened up with automatic fire. The attack took place just moments after the three men had signed bail at Lurgan RUC barracks. Sam Marshall's last words to his two companions before he was shot dead were ``we were let out to be set up.''
This week, another story of a set up hit the headlines. This time it wasn't about setting someone up to be killed, it was about sending them to jail. A convicted loyalist gun runner, Lindsay Robb, revealed that RUC Special Branch colluded with the UVF to fabricate evidence against a senior Lurgan republican. The republican was Colin Duffy, one of two men to survive the attack that killed Sam Marshall.
It's not simply the case that collusion has happened, events indicate collusion is systematic and ongoing
``My initial reaction to Robb's revelation was not one of shock or surprise,'' says Colin Duffy, ``as people will know, I have said many times before that British crown forces, including the RUC, are colluding with loyalist killers. I stated as much in 1990 after the murder of Sam Marshall and the attempted murder of myself and Tony McCaughey.''
Born in Lurgan on 18 September 1958, Sam Marshall was the third eldest in a family of seven children. In 1964, the Marshall family moved to the newly built Kilwilkie estate in the north of the town. One of Sam's schoolmates was Tony McCaughey, whose family lived close to the Marshall's in the crowded nationalist enclave. Sam also knew a boy called Duffy, but it was his younger brother Colin who later became a good friend.
In January 1990, both Sam Marshall and Colin Duffy were at Tony McCaughey's home when it was raided by the RUC and a small quantity of ammunition was found. All three men were arrested and charged in relation to the find. In February, Sam and Colin were granted bail but it was another month before Tony was released from custody. All three men were granted bail on condition that they signed at the local RUC barracks twice a week.
The first evening Tony was due to sign was Wednesday, 7 March. All three men were scheduled to attend the barracks at the same time. The exact days and times were known only to themselves, their solicitor and the RUC. The men already suspected that they were under surveillance. The day before, Colin and Tony had spotted a vehicle following them. A red Maestro had been seen by other people in the neighbourhood. As the three men walked towards the barracks, the Maestro was spotted again. ``It's the Branch,'' one of the men told a local man in Deeny Drive.
On the way to the barracks, the Maestro was seen again at St. Peter's Chapel. Tony described the driver as well dressed, wearing a white shirt and dark suit jacket. After signing bail, the three men noticed two figures in the outside observation post. It was unusual for the post to be manned and the two occupants were not wearing RUC caps.
A few hundred yards from the barracks and the red Maestro passed the three men again. A second car, a red Rover carrying three men, passed them in Wellington Street, travelling towards the city centre. A few minutes later, the Rover passed them again. It was spotted for the third time, parked just beyond Kilmaine Street.
Initially, the three men had assumed the Rover was part of a surveillance team which included the Maestro and only at the last moment did they become concerned enough to change their intended route. It was too late. Two masked gunmen stepped out of the Rover and opened fire. Sam Marshall was wounded and unable to run. The gunman put the rifle to Sam's head and fired twice. Miraculously, Tony and Colin escaped unharmed.
A few days later, a sophisticated crown force surveillance camera trained on Colin Duffy's house was discovered. The equipment bore NATO and British MoD markings. The Rover had been found, burnt out, a short time after the killing near the M1 motorway. Questions were asked about the Maestro but there were no answers immediately forthcoming.
Years later, during an extradition hearing in America, the RUC admitted that the Maestro belonged to them, and on the night Sam Marshall died, it was a part of a surveillance operation. Unbelievably the RUC insisted that Sam Marshall was ``not the target on that particular evening''.
Within three years of surviving a murder plot, Colin Duffy was the centre of another plot to ``take him out''. This time, the conspiracy was to frame Colin on a murder conviction rather than kill him. The plot was different, but the question remains - were many of the key protagonists the same?
According to Lindsay Robb, the RUC approached UVF commanders in Portadown after the IRA killing of a former UDR soldier John Lyness in 1993. RUC Special Branch asked the loyalist gang to supply a `clean' witness who could claim that Colin Duffy was seen in the vicinity at the time of the shooting. The Special Branch implied if the gang could do this for them, the RUC would ``go easy'' on investigations into UVF activity in the Mid Ulster area.
Lindsay Robb claims he was approached by a senior member of the Mid-Ulster UVF and asked to give evidence against Duffy. Robb subsequently appeared, screened from public view, as a key prosecution witness at the murder trial. Colin Duffy was convicted. A few years later, in a dramatic turn of events, the conviction was quashed when the UVF's `clean' witness was caught gun running in Scotland. Lindsay Robb was convicted and Colin Duffy walked free.
``If the RUC were prepared to collude with loyalists to take me out of circulation in 1993, then it is reasonable to assume that members of the British crown forces were involved in the UVF's attempt to take me out in 1990,'' says Colin. ``This was not the first or last time RUC Special Branch, or some other section of the British crown forces, were in contact with loyalist paramilitaries.''
But the story doesn't end there. During the 1993 murder trial Colin Duffy was represented by Lurgan defence lawyer Rosemary Nelson. Rosemary also successfully represented Colin Duffy when was accused of the killing of two RUC officers in 1997. The charges against Duffy were dropped. Rosemary Nelson was also involved in the Marshall family's quest for truth in relation to Sam's death, highlighting allegations of collusion at home and abroad.
In 1999, Rosemary Nelson became the victim of another murder plot when she died in a car bomb explosion. Prior to her death, Rosemary had been the target of a protracted campaign of harassment by the RUC. Death threats were issued by the RUC Special Branch through Rosemary's clients, including Colin Duffy.
``Rosemary's preparedness to confront the RUC, to take on high profile cases like my own and to represent the residents of the Garvaghy Road made her a primary target,'' says Colin. ``More then any other group, it was in the interests of the RUC for Rosemary to be taken out of circulation. It's not simply the case that collusion has happened, events indicate collusion is systematic and ongoing.''