Hamill inquiry opens
Hamill inquiry opens

An inquiry has opened into the murder by a loyalist mob of Portadown Catholic Robert Hamill in the presence of an RUC police patrol eight years ago.

The mob had chanted, “die Fenian die” as the father of three was kicked to death on April 26th, 1997. He died of his injuries the following month.

Armed RUC members in a police Land Rover at the scene could have acted to prevent his killing but failed to do so, and also made no attempt to arrest any of the killers. Some RUC members are accused of taking part in a cover up to destroy evidence.

An inquiry to establish the facts of the case was set up last November by then British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy following a recommendation by retired Canadian Supreme Court judge Peter Cory.

Opening proceedings in Craigavon yesterday, chairman (Sir) Edwin Jowett confirmed the inquiry’s terms.

Mr Jowett was joined by the Rev (Baroness) Richardson, a former moderator of the Free Churches’ Council of England and Wales, and (Sir) John Evans, formerly chief constable of Devon and Cornwall. The chairman appealed to those with relevant information to make it known, and encouraged those with recommendations on lines of inquiry to come forward.

In the courtroom were legal teams, observers from rights watchdogs, the Committee on Administration of Justice (CAJ) and British-Irish Rights Watch, and from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Speaking outside the courthouse, Diane Hamill appealed for witnesses to come forward. She singled out members of the former RUC. “Examine your consciences. Then do the right thing,” she said.

“We just want to know why Robert was allowed to be murdered within feet of four fully armed RUC officers,” Ms Hamill said.

Sinn Féín Assembly member John O’Dowd urged the inquiry to examine comparisons between the sectarian murder of Mr Hamill and the racist killing of London teenager Stephen Lawrence.

“I spoke with the Hamill family today and I know that they have mixed emotions in terms of what this inquiry will deliver.

“It has taken eight years for them to get this far. It is time that the family’s request for the truth to be told is finally met and I would hope that this inquiry will achieve that,” Mr O’Dowd said.

Barra McGrory, solicitor for the Hamill family said it had been a very long wait for the family.

“They are certainly going to give their full cooperation. They hope anyone else who has information or evidence to give to the inquiry will fully cooperate.”

* An inquest into the death of Seamus Ludlow, who was murdered by loyalists in County Louth 29 years ago, will begin on September 5 this year, a hearing decided yesterday.

In Dundalk yesterday, Louth county coroner Ronan Maguire also revealed he had yet to receive a ballistics report from the gardaí.

It is alleged that security forces on both sides of the Border have engaged in a cover-up because members of the murder gang worked for British military forces.

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