PSNI stall on review of investigations
PSNI stall on review of investigations

A special police team to review unsolved paramilitary murders has yet to be set up despite an announcement on the move almost a year ago, it has emerged.

The development comes amid mounting concerns over the RUC's handling of unsolved murders following the re-examination of several cases by Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan who uncovered a litany of errors.

High-profile probes which Mrs O'Loan has determined to have been seriously flawed include the 1998 Omagh bombing and the 1997 murder of GAA official Sean Brown.

More failings are expected to be exposed by her office in other cases.

The PSNI has also come under criticism for failing to bring charges in more recent sectarian murders including the killings of Gavin Brett and Ciaran Cummings, both in 2001, and of Daniel McColgan and Gerard Lawlor a year later.

Last March police confirmed that a specialist review team would be set up to bring a more focused approach to the re-examination of unsolved murders.

They said at the time: ``The PSNI is currently in the process of establishing a team of officers to review unsolved major crimes including murders both historic and recent.

``The resourcing and full remit of this major crime review team are being considered by senior officers at this time.''

Almost 12 months on there is still no indication of when the unit will be set up.

``The preparation for a crime review team is currently being undertaken but an announcement regarding the team is some months away,'' a police spokeswoman said last night.

PSNI police chief Hugh Orde has already said the killers in 1,800 unsolved murders were unlikely to be caught and suggested the establishment of a truth commission as a form of closure.


Meanwhile, the Police Ombudsman was accused of ``excusing'' the PSNI after it failed to arrive at a bomb alert for four hours despite a police station being 300 yards from the scene.

Nuala O'Loan's officers were asked to investigate police actions after a suspect bomb was found outside a bar at Brownlow Terrace in the town shortly after 9.20am on January 9.

Parents taking their children to school were forced to divert traffic away from the bomb scene for four hours while they waited for the PSNI to show up.

Sinn Féin Assembly member John O'Dowd eventually removed the device himself at 1.15pm.

The ombudsman's report stated: ``It is undeniable and unfortunate that police did not deal with this hoax device more expeditiously.''

But it claimed the PSNI was not at fault because a lack of British army support meant it was unable to attend.

Mr O'Dowd rejected the claim that police were unable to attend the scene because of a lack of support from the British army.

``Mahon Road barracks is 10 minutes away. British army headquarters is only 20 minutes away in Lisburn.

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