The arrest of two so-called RUC police ‘whistleblowers’ and a third former RUC man by the office of the Police Ombudsman has clouded the issue of RUC collusion with unionist paramilitaries.
Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan, who is carrying out a major investigation into the issue, sent investigators to arrest the three over an alleged attempt to pervert the course of justice and misconduct in public office.
The officers were involved in the investigation into the murder of Raymond McCord Jnr, who was beaten to death near Belfast in 1997 by members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).
It has been claimed that at least one of those responsible for the brutal killing was working for police Special Branch at the time.
Mrs O’Loan’s report of her inquiry into the police investigation is expected to be one of the most damning published, with devastating evidence that unionist paramilitaries working as informers for police were involved in a series of killings, but were never charged.
Mr McCord (22) was beaten to death by the UVF in Newtownabbey in November 1997 after falling out with former associates.
The two former detectives arrested today were detained for questioning at separate police stations, the Ombudsman Office said. His father, Raymond McCord Snr, was fought a strong campaign to expose collusion in his son’s murder.
It emerged yesterday that the three former RUC detectives were also being questioned about the UVF murder in 1993 of Catholic woman Sharon McKenna, before being released.
One of those questioned was Johnston ‘Jonty’ Brown, who has accused RUC Special Branch of protecting a top UVF informer linked with the McCord murder known as ‘Agent Roxy’. Former north Belfast UVF leader Mark Haddock, who has been named as that agent in the Dublin parliament and elsewhere, remains in hospital after being the subject of a UVF murder bid two months ago.
Brown, who said he expected to be questioned after his apartmenet had been searched in his absence, said he had nothing to fear.
“The problem when you speak out in relation to these serious matters is, they can’t get anybody else because nobody else is talking,” he said.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing and Justice issues Gerry Kelly said “that the arrests are the tip of a collusion iceberg”.
The Special Branch and British Intelligence had thousands of agents “controlling and directing the loyalist death squads”, he said.
“In recent years we have had a drip feed of information surrounding events like Loughinisland and the murder of Pat Finucane. We have now started to hear more about the activities of individual agents like Mark Haddock and Torrens Knight, the Greysteel killer.
“But this is not enough. We need full exposure of the policy of collusion and British State involvement in the murder of citizens.”
* Raymond McCord Snr. accused British Direct Ruler Peter Hain of falling asleep during a meeting to discuss the case.
Mr McCord said he met Peter Hain last week to discuss the murder of his son and his calls for an independent judicial inquiry into the killing.
Mr McCord told BBC Radio: “Peter Hain started to doze off several times, nodded the head, his eyes closed and showed no interest whatsoever. It was total disrespect to young Raymond and his case.”