A hearing before the North’s senior coroner has heard an admission that PSNI Special Branch visited an interrogation suite where a Strabane republican was found dead four years ago.
John Brady’s family was told he had taken his own life after he was found dead in a consultation room in the custody suite at Strand Road barracks.
His family refused to believe that he would have taken his own life in October 2009 because he was due to be released from prison five weeks later. The 40-year-old’s death was then the subject of a report by the Police Ombudsman, which was dismissed as a “whitewash” by his sister.
At an inquest hearing on Friday, Coroner John Leckey heard claims that two members of PSNI Special Branch may have attempted to recruit Brady as an informer in the hours before he died. He ruled the involvement of the PSNI in Brady’s last hours must be investigated before an inquest can be held.
The inquest had been due to be heard on November 4, but the new developments could see it pushed back for months.
At a preliminary hearing in Belfast, a representative for the Police Ombudsman accepted that members of ‘C3’ -- the new name for Special Branch -- had been present in the interrogation rooms on the day Mr Brady died. The issue was raised after the lawyer representing Mr Brady at the time of his death, John Finucane, wrote to the coroner to relay the allegations. Mr Finucane said he was made aware about the presence of the Special Branch police informally when he attended a police disciplinary into his client’s death in custody.
The coroner ruled that all the proceedings of the police’s disciplinary hearing should be transcribed so the court could examine them. Noting that the transcription would take four weeks, Mr Leckey warned that the scheduled start date of November 5 would be missed, and it could be a year before the inquest would begin.
John Brady was released from prison under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, but was returned to jail in 2008 by an order of the then British Direct Ruler, Shaun Woodward. Prior to his death, he said publicly that his “war was over.” He had told his family that he planned to start a new life in Donegal to avoid “further harassment by the PSNI.”
At his funeral, a full republican military salute saw a volley of shots fired over his coffin.