Judge’s frustration at inquest hearing delays
The British ministry of defence has uncovered up to 100 new documents linked to the police investigation into the UVF murder of a Catholic pensioner in 1994.
Details emerged in Belfast at a preliminary hearing ahead of a full inquest into the death of Roseanne Mallon, who was shot dead as she watched television at her sister-in-law’s home in Dungannon, County Tyrone.
A 67-page bundle of material was received by the Crown Solicitor’s Office on Wednesday.
A further set of up to 20 pages was handed in some time between 5pm on Thursday and 5pm yesterday.
High Court judge Mr Justice Weir asked: “Was this found under the bed in someone’s house? It is a bit worrying that after all this time things are still turning up.”
The hearing was told that in 2010 a previous inquest stalled when new material including police notebook entries was found.
Kevin Rooney QC, who is acting for the military and police, said this latest discovery was made during an archive check.
The judge warned that the usual censoring of “sensitive” material in the documents should not add further delay.
Ms Mallon, who was not married, was shot dead on May 8 1994.
A short time later British army surveillance equipment including a hidden camera was found in a field overlooking the house. Some level of British military collusion has always been assumed in the murder.
However, eight former soldiers called to give evidence have still not been traced.
The judge said efforts to locate the witnesses should be stepped up. He suggested bank details could be used to find them.
“They did not join the army the week before they became involved in an operation like this. They are likely to be still serving, if that is possible, or pensioners,” he said.
“Probably bank details will be sufficiently current to make sure that they get their money each month.”
It was claimed that a senior police witness “may not be medically fit” to give evidence. Another former RUC man “may be working outside” the jurisdiction, it was added.
The judge said internet-based communications such as “Skype” could be used to take evidence from those living or working abroad.
The Mallon case is one of 29 conflict-related inquests that are still awaiting a full hearing.
A non-jury inquest has been scheduled to take place in Belfast on May 13.
The judge said: “I think the family has waited long enough to have this matter dealt with.
“If we lose this hearing date for reasons that are not good I will not hesitate to say where I think the blame lies. There is a responsibility on all of us.
“Bear in mind there are people intimately concerned in these matters and they have got feelings as well.”