As preliminary hearings into his inquest get underway, a look at the murder of Sam Marshall, a close friend of veteran Irish Republican Colin Duffy, which took place 24 years ago this week, and the efforts of assassinated human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson to pursue justice in the case.
In 1990, Colin Duffy narrowly escaped an assassination attempt after attending an appointment at an RUC (now PSNI) police base that saw his 31 year old friend Sam Marshall gunned down and shot at point blank range as he lay on the ground.
The attack is widely believed to have been coordinated by members of the RUC paramilitary police and British military intelligence, who had been following Duffy and his companions in a car and watched as the killers struck and then “ran point” for the gunmen’s getaway car as they fled the scene.
In 1999, the BBC’s Panorama programme investigated Rosemary Nelson’s attempts to uncover the truth about the killing, which ultimately led to her own assassination at the hands of the British terror gangs in Ireland operating under the direction of the British state. Part of the transcript of that programme, presented by journalist John Ware, is published here:
“WARE: ...In March 1990 Colin Duffy and two fellow republicans were walking home having just signed on for bail at Lurgan RUC station. Six hundred yards from the station they became suspicious of a car.
COLIN DUFFY: As we crossed the road and reached the corner of Kilmain Street two occupants got out out of the vehicle. Sam was hit within a few yards of running, and I continued to run then on down the street.
WARE: The man who died was Sam Marshall, a close friend of Colin Duffy’s. Mrs Neslon has questions about several aspects of this shooting. In the first place the gunmen would need to have known Colin Duffy’s identity and his precise movements. And yet the times and dates of his bail signings were supposed to be known only to his lawyer and the RUC. So how exactly did the government get to know these details?
The day after the shooting, Michael Tallon was walking his dogs along the railway line that runs close to Colin Duffy’s front door. The dogs spotted a rabbit.
MICHAEL TALLON: They flushed a rabbit out of the hedges. It went down into a pile of old discarded stuff out of people’s houses. When I went down, the dogs were all round the stuff, and I moved the settee to see was the rabbit anywhere about it, and I discovered wires; a black tube with wires coming out both ends of it. What they had was like some sort of a camera.
WARE: It was in fact an army camera transmitting pictures and it was trained on Colin Duffy’s front door. The camera might explain the sudden appearance of a red Maestro car which Duffy says drove past him on Deeny Drive within minutes of leaving home to sign on for bail. Panorama has established the car belonged to a unit of military intelligence that often conducts surveillance for the RUC.
Why were you suspicious?
COLIN DUFFY: Well I was suspicious of it because it was an unknown vehicle in this area, the area where I live. It contained one person and I thought it strange, so I took a mental note of the particular car.
WARE: After Duffy collected Marshall and the third man, the trio headed for Lurgan RUC station. On route they spotted the army car on two more occasions. While it was parked in North Street, they even jokingly acknowledged the driver. After signing on for bail they walked back home again. They’d walked only 200 yards from the RUC station when the army car pulled out of Ulster Street. It was the fourth time they’d seen it that evening.
As they walked on just past Ulster Street, they became suspicious of another car, a Rover. It was only about 30 seconds behind the army car and it contained three men. A short time later, the Rover past them for the second time.
DUFFY: We took notice of it again. Obviously we knew then that there was something strange about it.
WARE: As they rounded the bend they saw the Rover had parked. Now wary, Duffy and his friends took a short cut home to the Kilwilky Estate to avoid the car. As they crossed the road, the doors flew open.
Where was the army car when the shooting started?
The RUC Chief Inspector, whose investigation ruled out collusion, concluded that the vehicle was not in the vicinity of the shooting. There is no way the vehicle could have done anything in relation to the shooting. But we’ve found two witnesses whose evidence suggests it was. Contrary to the RUC’s account. Our first witness says he saw a car parked at the junction of Victoria Street and Lake Street. It’s just around the corner from the shooting. After the gun fire the car did a u-turn and drove off very fast. Our witness says it was red and he believes a Maestro just like the army car.
Like our first witness, our second witness is afraid to be identified in public. He was on Lake Street and saw and heard the same thing. “I heard a squeal of tyres behind me. I saw a car do a U-turn and drive away very fast. If this was the army car, why did the police say it was nowhere near the shooting when it was just around the corner? When the shooting started, Duffy ran towards Vicroria Street. Our second witness says that when the car, believed to be the army car, sped off, it headed towards Duffy’s escape route. Our second witness says that the gunman’s car followed hard on its heels down Victoria Street. Why then did the RUC say there was no way the army car could have done anything in relation to the shooting of Sam Marshall.
Although Sam Marshall has been dead nine years, no inquest has yet been held. Six months before she died, Mrs Nelson demanded one to question the RUC about their investigation. In any other part of the United Kingdom this would be quite normal. But here in Northern Ireland, such a demand is regarded as political mischief making. The small town provincial lawyer was propelling herself towards the centre of a highly charged political storm. Not only was Mrs Nelson taking on the RUC legally, she was confronting them on the streets as well.”