Irish Republican News · July 8, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Families sue over murder weapon handed back
Families sue over murder weapon handed back
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The families of five men shot dead by loyalists in a Belfast bookmaker’s are suing the head of the PSNI police for failing to prevent their deaths.

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In February 1992 UFF gunmen burst into Sean Graham’s on the Ormeau Road and opened fire on customers.

Jack Duffin, William McManus, Christy Doherty, 18-year-old Peter Magee and 15-year-old James Kennedy were all killed. Seven people were seriously injured.

It later emerged that a Browning pistol used by the gunmen had been among five weapons UDA informer Billy Stobie previously handed over to his Special Branch handlers to inspect.

Official police procedures meant that the weapons should have been bugged so that the RUC (now PSNI) could prevent them being used.

However, despite Stobie later telling his handlers that he had dumped the weapons after coming under suspicion by the UDA, the RUC made no effort to recover them.

The failure was to have deadly consequences, and fuelled suspicions of collusion.

In December 1991 Catholic civil servant Aidan Wallace was killed when UDA gunmen burst into the Devenish Bar in west Belfast.

Three others were injured as the killer went from table to table. They included an eight-year-old boy who lost an eye when the gunman shot him in the face.

Three months later the same Browning pistol was used in the attack on Sean Graham’s.

In 2007 it emerged in court that a leading member of the UDA gang blamed for the attack was a police informer.

The Police Ombudsman is investigating whether self-confessed informer Stephen McFerran was protected from prosecution.

The North’s Prosecution Service has confirmed that the RUC/PSNI had failed to properly monitor the weapons after they were returned to Stobie, but was “unable” to identify which senior RUC officer ordered that the weapons should be given back.

It concluded that in the “absence of evidence of identity it could not prosecute any senior officers for manslaughter by gross negligence.”

A Historic Enquiries Team (HET) investigation, concluded in recent weeks, described the RUC’s decision to simply return the weapons to the UDA as a “significant failure” which had “tragic and devastating repercussions”.

The families have now initiated civil proceedings against the chief constable,

Solicitor Kevin Winters said they had been left with “no other option - but to sue [PSNI Chief] Matt Baggott.

“Families are being asked to wait years for organisations like the Police Ombudsman and Historic Enquiries Team to carry out investigations into these killings without any guarantee of justice.” he said.

“In many cases, because of personal circumstances, families simply can’t wait and have no other alternative but to take these civil actions in order to seek proper compensation for the death of their loved ones and hold those persons responsible to account.

“I believe that a lot of other families, who now find themselves in a similar position, will choose to take a similar course of action in the future.”

© 2010 Irish Republican News