Special Branch disgraced by TV documentary
Special Branch disgraced by TV documentary

A former senior figure in the PSNI police Special Branch has admitted stealing confidential files relating to murder investigations in a bid to frustrate the work of the Police Ombudsman.

Chief Superintendent Eric Anderson is expected to be questioned over admissions he withheld documents linked to the investigation into the murder of County Tyrone schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson.

Anderson was interviewed as part of a UTV television documentary into the police handling of their bungled investigation, and the subsequent release of the suspected killer Robert Howard, even though he had already been sentenced to life for the murder another schoolgirl.

He was also seen asking for a fee of seven hundred pounds to speak about the case, one of the most controversial criminal cases in the history of the North.

The former police chief was also part of the team which was involved in the discredited investigation into the August 1998 Omagh bomb.

Mr Anderson was shown producing police files to a UTV reporter, unaware that he was being secretly filmed.

He defended possessing the documents, stating: “The only way to keep yourself abreast is to keep the papers.

“Not anywhere where they can be found, I hasten to add.”

As the dead girl`s family demanded a full public inquiry when they met a government minister in Belfast, Nuala O`Loan confirmed her own investigation was already under way.

Ms O`Loan`s investigators are due to meet the Arkinson family within the next 10 days. She said: “The officer appears to suggest (in the programme) he has material central to the investigation into the disappearance of Arlene Arkinson.

“If that is the case, the material belongs to the Police Service of Northern Ireland and it should be returned to them.”

But Arlene`s sister Kathleen, who met British officials at a hotel in Belfast to demand a full public inquiry, insisted tonight the ex-police chief had answers to provide as well.

She said: “Eric Anderson should be ashamed of himself and if he doesn`t hand over those papers, then I`ll go to his door myself.

“There are no many unanswered questions. Why was Howard freed to murder? Why was my garden dug up?”

Kathleen added: “The minister said he was sorry about what happened and promised to help. It`s been worse than a nightmare for me. I`m taking so many tablets (Valium) nowadays, it doesn`t seem to make any difference.

“The lives of this family have been wrecked. The police behaviour has been disgraceful. Howard has got away with it and he won`t tell us where Arlene`s body is.

“We can hardly believe what Eric Anderson said. He thinks my sister`s life, a child, is worth #700 and he calls himself a policeman. If that`s what policing is about ... they need to catch themselves on.”

Anderson defended his decision to search the sister’s home in Castlederg, despite evidence pointing to Robert Howard.

“We inherited the most horrific mess when we went in,” he said. “We left her a landscaped garden which must have cost us about #14,000. We rebuilt the garage... We landscaped the back garden. She had the nicest back garden in the whole of Castlederg.”

Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty has demanded that the British government make a statement on Anderson’s activities.

“I am stunned given the gravity of the matters exposed that neither security Minister Shaun Woodward nor his boss Peter Hain have yet to make any public comment on what can only be described as a developing scandal.

“Nationalists and republicans have long known about the destructive role being played by the RUC old guard both inside and outside the current policing structures. Nationalists and republicans know only too well the role of Special Branch in passing confidential files onto loyalist death squads in the past.

“The British government and the PSNI need to realise that this issue is not going away. Eric Anderson has admitted involvement in serious criminal activity. The response of the British government and its agencies to this matter is an acid test of their commitment to the process and their commitment to tackling malign influences who have up until now had a free reign to try and undermine efforts to consolidate and advance the peace process.”

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© 2005 Irish Republican News