Republican News · Thursday 07 September 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Details of investigation boost case for independent Nelson investigation

Colin Port rules out collusion in Nelson inquiry

By Caítlin Doherty

Rosemary Nelson was an ordinary mother. An ordinary solicitor living in an ordinary house with an ordinary job. Last Wednesday night, this was the biased and totally unrepresentative image that ITV's Britain's Most Wanted programme portrayed of Rosemary Nelson. The politically sensitive nature of her work and the threats she had received were never once mentioned, despite the fact that such considerations were key to the circumstances surrounding her murder.

Colin Port also confirmed that his so-called independent team is partly made up of RUC officers, operating out of Lurgan barracks, the station from which most of the death threats against Rosemary emanated
The program, produced in close cooperation with the team in charge of the so-called inquiry into her killing, has sent shock waves across the nationalist community. It has again shown to what extent the current probing into Nelson's assassination is fatally flawed and has again fuelled the case for an independent international judicial inquiry.

What is most disturbing is that the approach taken in the programme is a faithful reflection of the attitude of the team supervised by Norfolk deputy chief Colin Port. Port's team modelled the short sequence and controlled the information that was broadcast.

The sensitive nature of Nelson's work and the political circumstances surrounding the killing were totally ignored. But that was not all. The death threats she received from members of the RUC was not once mentioned, despite the fact that fears from her safety had been documented in writing, audio and video. Leading human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, and even the United Nations, say considerations about RUC harassment and death threats are central to any investigation.

``Rosemary had raised her difficulties as high as Downing Street, said Pádraígin Drinan, human rights solicitor and member of the Justice for Rosemary Nelson campaign. ``Nothing was done. She was given no security and she was killed. What is essential to any investigation is to work out why she was targeted for death. That is why there is more than ever a need to set-up an independent judicial inquiry into Rosemary's murder.''

During the programme, Port also confirmed that his so-called independent team is partly made up of RUC officers, operating out of Lurgan barracks, the station from which most of the death threats against Rosemary emanated.

A reliable source has also confirmed to An Phoblacht in recent days that it took ``weeks'' for the Port team to obtain computers that were not connected to the RUC server and therefore not accessible to other senior officers and RUC staff.

In short, Port was attempting to convince the wider public that there was no problem with the RUC investigating the actual murder, despite the fact that the even the Independent Commission for Police Complaints had no confidence in the force to investigate the death threats made by its officers.



One of the strongest aspects of the program proving the need for an independent investigation was the appeal for information itself. The desperate tone adopted by Port and the wall of silence his men face when dealing with the nationalist population shows that any investigation that does not have the confidence of the nationalist community is fatally flawed.

In a blatant insult to the nationalist community, Port stated: ``For various reasons, nationalists don't trust the police.'' Full stop. No explanation as to why. But Port, who says that people refusing to speak hold ``a clue'', is appealing for witnesses to come forward.

``Local people know that the investigation team is made up of members of the RUC,'' says Dara O'Hagan, Upper Bann Sinn Féin Assembly member and a close friend of the Nelson family. ``They will not cooperate with the investigation because they have no faith in the RUC. Many are also fearful because, with the RUC directly involved in the operations, they don't know where their statements will end up or how they will be used.''

Workers at the Jefferson Smurfit factory in Lurgan have confirmed that they will continue to refuse to cooperate with the team. Approximately 150 staff were on shift duty at the factory on the weekend of the murder. The factory is a mile from the Nelson home and many staff would have driven or walked past her house. In May, a team of eight detectives visited the factory and 62 staff refused to cooperate, saying they had no confidence in the team because it was formed by members of the RUC.

A senior manager has confirmed that the company would not give any further assistance because staff had threatened industrial action if RUC officers were allowed back on the premises.


But it is with follow-up comments that Port himself buried any possible remaining hopes that this inquiry may help undercover the truth about the killing.

Commenting on the possibility of RUC and British Army collusion, Colin Port said there was ``nothing at all'' to substantiate such charges. He did, however, add that it was possible that a ``rogue element'' had colluded with loyalists in the killing and that possibility would be investigated.

Such comments have provoked fury within the nationalist and particularly republican community in Lurgan.


The Rosemary Nelson Campaign says a number of questions remain unanswered. Why for example, has no explanation been given for the presence of a British military helicopter in the skies above the Nelson home at the time the bomb was likely planted?

Have those RUC officers who issued death treats been questioned as part of the murder investigation?

Why have they not faced charges?

Why have they not been subjected to the full rigours of the law like any other citizen?

``The British government cannot continue to ignore the call for the truth about the planning and murder of Rosemary,'' says Robbie McVeigh, spokesperson for the campaign. ``In life, the British government failed to protect Rosemary Nelson. In death, they are failing to give her justice.''

He added: ``If the British government had set up such an inquiry into Pat Finucane's 1989 murder, Rosemary could be celebrating her birthday next Monday with her family and friends.''

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