The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has released the findings of
her three-and-a-half-year investigation intoseries of complaints
about police conduct in relation to the murder of Raymond McCord Junior
in November 1997.
Mrs Nuala O’Loan has upheldcomplaint from his father, Raymond
McCord, that overnumber of years police acted in suchway as to
protect informants from being fully accountable to the law.
An initial investigation into Mr McCord’s complaints revealed issues of
concern in relation toseries of other incidentsincluding murders,
attempted murders and drug dealing.
Asresult, the Police Ombudsman’s investigation quickly expanded to
cover the period from 1991-2003. It looked at one police informant in
particularInformant- and at his associates, many of whom were
also police informants and members ofUVF unit in North Belfast and
The investigation has proved the most complex ever undertaken by the
Police Ombudsman. More than 100 serving and retired police officers
were interviewed, 24 of them ‘under caution.’ Members of the public
were also interviewed.
Police computer systems were examined and more than 10,000 items of
police documentation was recovered, including material held within
intelligence systems, on personal records, in police journals, in crime
files and from other sources. Corroborating material was also recovered
fromnumber of other, non-police, “agencies.”
The Police Ombudsman has identified that intelligence held within the
policing system, the majority of which has been graded by police as a
“reliable and probably true” and which has been corroborated from other
sources, which links police informants to:
The murders of ten people;
72 instances of other crime, including:
Ten attempted murders;
Ten “punishment” shootings;
13 punishment attacks;
A bomb attack in Monaghan;
17 instances of drug dealing, and;
Additional criminality, including criminal damage, extortion and
Police Ombudsman investigators have also identified less significant
and reliable intelligence which links Informantand his associates to
an additional five murders
During this period the Police Ombudsman has estimated that payments of
at least #79,840 were made to Informant 1, which includedseries of
incentive payments (30.030.10)
The Police Ombudsman investigation also establishedpattern of work
by certain officers within Special Branch designed to ensure that
Informantand his associates were protected from the law.
In addition, she has also identifiedseries of instances when they
took steps to ensure that police informants who had committed crime
were protected from police officers investigating those crimes and from
other agencies within the criminal justice system.
Informants were reportedly ‘babysat’ through interviews to held them
avoid incriminating themselves, false notes were created and searches
of houses to locate UVF arms and the search ofUVF arms dump were
blocked for no valid reason (23.1-23.14.)
In addition, misleading information was prepared for the Director of
Public Prosecutions (DPP) and vital intelligence likely to have
assisted in the investigation of serious crimes, including murder, was
withheld from police investigation teams.
The Police Ombudsman’s Office has encounterednumber of difficulties
during this investigation, including the fact thatnumber of
documents were either missing, lost or destroyed. These included parts
of murder files, decision logs and intelligence documents. This general
absence of records has prevented senior officers from being held to
account. The Police Ombudsman is of the view that this was not an
oversight but wasdeliberate strategy and had the effect of avoiding
proper accountability. (8.1-8.19 and 33.6)
Mrs O’Loan has concluded that her investigation has established
collusion between certain officers within Special Branch andUVF unit
in North Belfast and Newtownabbey. (32.1- 32.5)
“It would be easy to blame the junior officers’ conduct in dealing with
various informants and indeed they are not blameless. However, they
could not have operated as they did without the knowledge and support
at the highest levels of the RUC and the PSNI,” she said.
Mrs O’Loan said she believedculture of subservience to Special
Branch had developed within the RUC which had createdform of
“The effect of that dysfunction was that, whilst undoubtedly Special
Branch officers were effective in preventing bombings, shootings and
other attacks, some informants were able to continue to engage in
terrorist activities, including murder, without the Criminal
Investigation Department having the ability to deal with them for some
of these offences.”
Mrs O’Loan has said she believes the PSNI has made significant changes
and introduced new policies in relation to its handling of informants.
She said the PSNI have also accepted all of the recommendations
contained in her statement:
“This has beendifficult and at times very sad investigation, both to
conduct and to report on.am satisfied that the PSNI have accepted
the mistakes of the past and put in place policies and procedures to
help ensure they will not happen in the future.”
1. The Murder of Raymond McCord Junior (9.1-9.35)
Raymond McCord Junior was found beaten to death in Ballyduff Quarry on
November 1997. Information held by the police, and corroborated from
number of sources, indicates that Informant 1, who was in prison at
the time, ordered his murder and that another man, who was on leave
from the prison, carried it out.
Informantand his associates were eventually arrested for the murder,
questioned and released without charge.
The Police Ombudsman has established that there werenumber of
failures with the murder investigation which may have significantly
reduced the possibility of anyone ever being prosecuted for the crime.
They includefailure to seizesuspect’s clothing from prison and
the destruction of exhibits, including the car believed to have been
used in the attack.
The Police Ombudsman found no evidence that police knew what was going
to happen to Mr McCord, nor that they could have warned him or his
family about the danger.
2. The Murder of Peter McTasney. (10.5 -10.16)
Peter McTasney was murdered at Bawnmore in Belfast on 24 February 1991.
Later that year, when police were interviewing suspects about an
attempted murder, which Informanthad told them about and was
believed to have been involved in, they established that the gun used
was the one used to kill Mr McTasney and was linked toseries of
Informantwas arrested and interviewedtotal of 19 times. His
‘handlers’ conducted the main interviews. One of those handlers has
said they ‘babysat’ him though the interviews and that notes were
completed which did not reflect what happened in the interview.
Informantwas subsequently released without charge.
combined file for the murder of Mr McTasney and the earlier attempted
murder was prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Two
men were subsequently convicted. Special Branch, with the agreement of
Deputy Assistant Chief Constable, did not disclose to the DPP the
involvement ofpolice agent.
3. The Murder of Sharon McKenna. (13.113.49)
Sharon McKenna was shot dead on January 17 1993.
Detective Sergeant andDetective Constable have both said Informant
admitted to them being one of the gunmen involved in the murder.
Separate police documentation from the time also records ‘high grade,’
information that Informantwas involved.
Authorisation was given by Special Branch to arrest Informant 1. He was
arrested, detained for six days, and interviewed 37 times. Some of
those interviews were conducted by his ‘handler’. Another of those
officers present has told Police Ombudsman investigators he ‘felt like
gooseberry’ sitting in on the interviews, as he knew Informantwas
police ‘source’ and would say nothing of relevance in front of him.
Informantwas subsequently released without charge.
No one has ever been charged with the murder.
In the weeks which followed, Informant 1’s monthly retainer was
increased from #100month to #160, despite the fact that he was a
main suspect for the murder.
4. The Murder of Sean McParland (14.1- 14.17)
Sean McParland was shot on 17 February 1994 and died later from his
Police Ombudsman investigators have seen information which indicated
that two days before the murder, police received information from an
informant that someone was to be killed the next morning. They mounted
response at the relevant time and place during which they saw
Later that day they received information that Informanthad been
involved in the planned attack but that it was called off when police
were seen in the area. Mr McParland was shot the following day.
Police Ombudsman investigators have seen additional information in
which Informantnames another police informant as having carried out
the murder. He also admits to having had an involvement himself.
5,6 The Murders of Gary Convie and Eamon Fox (15.1-15.11)
Gary Convie and Eamon Fox were shot dead onbuilding site in Belfast
on 17 May 1994.
Informantwassuspect for the murder and was arrested.
The gunman who carried out the murders was said to have‘goatee’
beard. Informantwhen arrested had‘goatee’ beard but was allowed
to shave it off while in custody. No identity parade was held. He was
released without charge.
7. The Murder of Gerard Brady. (16.1-16.3)
Gerard Brady was shot on 17 June 1994. Police have intelligence which
links Informantand another police informant to this murder.
Ballistic tests have also linked the gun used to Informantand other
8. The Murder of John Harbinson. (18.1-18.28)
Mr Harbinson was beaten to death on 18 May 1997.
Special Branch hadsignificant amount of high-grade intelligence
about the four main suspects for this murder, including Informant 1.
They did not pass this information on to the police officers
investigating the murder.
Special Branch also had information that those who had carried out the
murder had fled tolocation in Ballyhalbert where they were ‘safely
ensconced.’ Again, they did not pass this information on to their
colleagues. Forensic opportunities were lost.
Police Ombudsman investigators have seen information which links
Informantto the murders of Thomas Sheppard in March 1996 (17.1-17.5)
and Thomas English in October 2000. (19.1- 19.5)
Terrorism in the Republic (24.1- 24.20)
Informantgave police information aboutplanned bomb attack in
Dublin and helped them ensure the plan was aborted. Special Branch
officers were instructed not to record the details of this planned
Informantlater gave police information about another ‘high profile’
attack onrepublican target and told them he had received the
explosives to carry it out. The police made safe the explosives and
returned them to him, but did not mount an operation to see what the
terrorists had planned or to arrest them.
Within two weeks there wasbomb attack on the Sinn Féin offices in
Monaghan. Intelligence held by police implicates police informants,
including Informant 1. None of this information was passed to the
Attack on Bar in Portadown (26.126.14)
Special Branch received detailed intelligence frompolice informant
ofplanned UVF attack onbar in Portadown. They passed on limited
information to local police. Only good policing in the area allowed
those responsible to be apprehended.
Special Branch Block Searches. (23.1-13.14)
Documentation indicates that police were provided with the addresses of
people who had UVF weapons, including Informant 1, and the location of
an alleged UVF arms dump. Special Branch blocked the searches of some
of these locations.
Within weeks of these searches having been blocked, there is
information that Informantand his associates were again linked to
murder and attempted murder.
Drug Dealing (27.1- 27.19)
The Police Ombudsman has obtained around 70 separate intelligence
reports held by police implicating Informantin 17 instances of drug
dealing in an area covering North Belfast and Larne. The material also
links him to associated ‘punishment’ attacks. Despite this, his only
conviction has been for the possession of drugs.