Brown family to prevent new PSNI `investigation'

Relatives of Sean Brown are to mount a legal challenge to block a new PSNI investigation into his murder following the publication of findings by the North's Police Ombudsman that the original police investigation was inadequate.

The 61-year-old prominent Gaelic sports figure was abducted from the GAA club in Bellaghy, County Derry in May 1997 and shot six times. His body was left alongside his burning car.

Ms Nuala O'Loan found ``significant failures'' in the investigation mounted by the then RUC. She accused officers of making ``no earnest effort'' to find the killers. and their investigation was ``incomplete and inadequate''. She described the disappearance of two key police files after her office began the inquiry as ``sinister''.

As part of a major a damage linmitation exercise, the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde ordered a fresh investigation.

The Police Ombudsman warned the chief constable she would be ``keeping watch'' of the new PSNI investigation.

But the Brown family has confirmed they would try to halt any new investigation mounted by the PSNI. They called instead for a new inquiry by an outside police force.

Ms O'Loan said her investigators had uncovered forensic failures, the mishandling of witnesses, a lack of sharing of intelligence gathered by Special Branch, and poor evidence-gathering concerning the use of cars by the murderers.

Ms O'Loan said the missing files were of the utmost importance and the failure to gain access to one of them ``seriously impeded'' her investigators.

``It has also effectively prevented the allocation of responsibility for individual decisions made by senior officers,'' her report states.

Reading from a prepared statement, Mr Damian Brown, son of the murdered Sean Brownthanked Ms O'Loan for the work carried out by her and her investigators. He said: ``In light of her statement this morning we believe we were right in taking our case to her.

``We want to state that we demand a totally independent investigation into my father's death. That can only be carried out by a police force from outside Northern Ireland,'' said Mr Brown.

The Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MP, Mr Martin McGuinness, backed the family's demand for an outside inquiry. ``For a report to state that no earnest attempt was made by the RUC to investigate who was responsible for the murder of Sean Brown is a hugely significant statement. I support absolutely the demands by the family for an independent inquiry...

``It will not be acceptable to anyone within the republican-nationalist constituency for the PSNI to conduct any serious investigation into this matter.''

The Sinn Féin chief negotiator added that the case posed many questions for Special Branch and for Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the former chief constable who also headed the intelligence operation.

``The coroner for the Belfast area had actually written to Ronnie Flanagan making it clear that he believed that there should be an outside investigation of this matter. That demand wasn't even answered,'' Mr McGuinness said.

The proper thing for Flanagan, since `kicked upstairs' to the British police watchdog for England and Wales, to do is stand down, he said.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News