Hamill case struck out
Hamill case struck out

The family of murdered Portadown Catholic Robert Hamill have expressed shock and anger after charges relating to an alleged attempted cover-up were suddenly withdrawn on Friday.

A charge of perverting the course of justice against a former RUC man and his wife has been dropped following the failure of a key witness to testify.

In 1997, Mr Hamill was severely beaten by a unionist mob as an RUC police patrol positioned just yards away refused to intervene. He died later in hospital.

Charges of perverting the course of justice were brought against Robert Atkinson, his wife Eleanor and another man, Kenneth Hanvey.

A conspiracy to protect those guilty of the murder was alleged to have involved Mr Atkinson and others. This centred on a telephone call to the house of an alleged suspect, just hours after Mr Hamill had been attacked.

Two others, Andrea McKee and Michael McKee pleaded guilty in 2002 to giving false information about the call. Andrea McKee had been expected to testify in the case, but on Friday she was declared to be an unreliable witness for the prosecution.

Mr Hamill's sister Diane told of her shock at the news: ``Almost seven years since Robert was killed the injustice remains steadfast.

``We can only hope that the inquiry that should be established under the recommendations of Judge Cory will reveal the full detail of the consistent failures [in the case].''

Her lawyer Barra McGrory said: ``We will be immediately contacting the [Director of Public Prosecutions] for specific reasons [for the collapse of the case].

``We will also now expect that the section of Judge Cory's report dealing with this case can now be published as the prosecution has collapsed,'' he said.

The British government is due to publish Peter Cory's reports into Mr Hamill's murder and three other controversial killings.

The retired Canadian judge has already said he believes the cases warrant independent inquiries.

The police ombudsman's office said yesterday's development ``will no doubt have been incredibly frustrating'' for the Hamills.

``However, the police ombudsman's office would have no criticism of the police investigation which led to the charges against the three accused,'' a spokesman said.

``The DPP's decision not to proceed with the prosecution was based on doubts over the credibility of a principal witness and not something over which the police would have had any control.''

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