For two decades Colin Duffy has been the target of an unrelenting campaign of persecution and victimisation by state forces within the Six Counties. That campaign has encompassed the full spectrum of harassment experienced by nationalists in the Six Counties, from petty stop-and-search harassment to arbitrary arrest and detention, from verbal and physical abuse to collusion and the use of murder. The following information by the Friends of Colin Duffy campaign sets out the views of Colin’s family and details the background to the British state’s campaign of persecution against him.
1990 - A Witness To A State Murder
19 years ago in March 1990, Colin Duffy was making his way home along with Sam Marshall and a third man, Tony McCaughey, when they were confronted by masked gunmen who opened up with automatic fire. The attack took place just moments after the three men had signed bail at Lurgan RUC barracks.
In January 1990, both Sam Marshall and Colin were at Tony McCaughey’s home when it was raided by the RUC. All three were arrested and charged as a result of the raid. In February Sam and Colin were granted bail and released but it was another month before Tony was released from custody. All three men were granted bail on the condition that they signed at the local RUC now PSNI barracks twice a week.
The first evening that all three were scheduled to sign together at the same time was Wednesday, 7th of March. The exact days and times were known only to themselves, their solicitor and the RUC. The men already suspected they were under surveillance. The day before, Colin and Tony had spotted a vehicle following them. A red Maestro had been seen by other people in the neighbourhood. As the three men walked towards the barracks, the red Maestro was spotted again.
On the way to the barracks, the Maestro was seen again at St Peter’s Chapel. Tony described the driver as well dressed, and wearing a white shirt and dark suit jacket. After signing bail, the three men noticed several figures in the outside observation post of the barracks. It was unusual for the post to be manned and the two occupants were not wearing RUC caps.
A few hundred yards from the barracks the red Maestro passed the three men again. A second car, a red Rover carrying three men passed them near Wellington Street, travelling towards the town centre. A few minutes later the Rover passed them again. It was then spotted for the third time, parked just beyond Kilmaine street.
Initially, the three men had assumed the Rover was part of a surveillance team which included the Maestro and only at the last moment did they become concerned enough to change their intended route. It was too late. Two masked gunmen stepped out of the Rover and opened fire. Sam Marshall was wounded and unable to run. The gunman put the rifle to Sam’s head and fired twice. Miraculously, Tony and Colin escaped unharmed.
A few days later, a sophisticated crown force surveillance camera trained on Colin’s house was discovered. The equipment bore Nato and British MoD markings. The Rover had been found burnt out, shortly after the killing near the M1 motorway. Questions were publicly asked about the Maestro but there were no answers immediately forthcoming.
In 1994 during an extradition hearing in America, RUC inspector Alan Clegg, admitted that the red Maestro belonged to the “intelligence services”, and on the night Sam Marshall died it was part of an undercover operation involving three unmarked vehicles one of which belonged to the RUC. Clegg refused to divulge any further information to the US court on the grounds of “British national security”.
As the Historical Enquiries Team re investigates Sam’s murder and the Marshall family pursue their demand for the holding of an open and full inquest, a very pertinent question arises - is it possible that the very forces accused of direct involvement in that murder have conspired again in 2009 to conveniently imprison one of the surviving two key witnesses to Sam’s murder, in order to discredit him and any testimony he may give?
1993 - A Conspiracy Between Murder Gangs, Six County Police And A Paid Perjurer
Three years after surviving the multiple murder bid which claimed Sam Marshall’s life, Colin was the centre of another conspiracy by state forces ‘to take him out’. This time, the conspiracy involved framing Colin on a murder conviction rather than kill him. A convicted unionist gun runner, Lindsay Robb, revealed that the Six County police force had colluded with the UVF to fabricate evidence against Colin The plot was different but the question remains - were many of the key protagonists the same?
According to Lindsay Robb, the RUC approached senior UVF figures after the IRA killing of a former UDR soldier John Lyness in 1993. The unionist murder gang was asked to supply a ‘clean’ witness who could claim that Colin was seen in the vicinity at the time of the shooting. The police officers involved implied if the unionist murder gang could do this for them, they would ‘go easy’ on investigations into UVF activity in the Mid Ulster area - even though the same organisation was actively engaged in a ruthless campaign of murder directed against Catholics at the time.
Lindsay Robb claims he was approached by a senior member of the Mid Ulster UVF and asked to give evidence, for which he was paid, against Colin. Robb subsequently appeared, screened from public view, as a key prosecution witness at Colin’s trial.
Colin was convicted in 1996, but in a dramatic turn of events, the conviction was quashed when the UVF’s ‘clean’ witness was caught gun running in Scotland. Lindsay Robb was convicted and Colin was released when details of the extraordinary conspiracy between the RUC and the UVF emerged.
Following his release, Colin publicly said to the media, “if the RUC were prepared to collude with loyalists to take me out of circulation in 1993, then it is reasonable to assume that members of the British crown forces were involved in the UVF’s attempt to take me out in 1990. This was not the first or last time the RUC, or some other section of the British crown forces, were in contact with loyalist paramilitaries.
Colin spent a total of three years unjustly imprisoned as a result of this British conspiracy. It was only as a result of a long and hard fought campaign by his friends and family that Colin was finally released in 1996.
His family are determined that this time around he shouldn’t have to spend any additional years of imprisonment as a result of yet another British state conspiracy against him.
Colin’s brother Paul said, “Colin’s history is a history of injustice, conspiracy, collusion and breaches of human rights. These practices were not acceptable in the 1990’s, they should not be acceptable today”.
Paul went on to call for all those who campaigned for Colin’s release in the 1990’s to support the family’s present campaign.
1997 - Another Failed Frame Up
In July 1997 Colin was arrested and again charged, this time with killing two RUC officers. In a blatant example of arbitrary arrest and detention, the RUC deliberately ignored evidence which established Colin’s innocence. There were a dozen witnesses who could place him in the Kilwilke estate, more than a mile away, at the time of the shooting.
A concerted campaign was mounted demanding his release, and a number of British MPs, Irish TDs as well as numerous human rights organisations in Ireland, Britain, the US and Europe supported the campaign.
Many correctly raised questions regarding the entire process of victimisation which Colin had been subject to by the state, calling it a clear abuse of process and urging his immediate release.
Colin was held for several months before the charges were dropped.
That injustice only ended when Colin was freed for the second time in thirteen months after a crown lawyer was forced to concede that the only evidence against him was the alleged evidence of a psychologically unstable woman, Witness D, who was pressurised by the RUC into falsely identifying him.
Another woman, who was an alibi witness for the defense, was also pressurised by two detectives while she was on holiday in Scotland, who tried to intimidate her into changing her statement.
Despite twelve witnesses contradicting Witness D, and a member of her own family describing her as unreliable, the RUC had persisted in their case against Colin.
Colin’s lawyer, Rosemary Nelson, who was later murdered in an act of state collusion in 1999 said: “This matter has caused the greatest concern in legal circles, amongst international civil rights bodies and public representatives.”
Gareth Pierce, an English lawyer who campaigned for wrongly accused Irish prisoners in British jails said: “Every ingredient which has led to wrongful convictions in the past seems to be present in his case.”
When Will It End?
There are very few people in Ireland who would not be aware of the circumstances leading up to and surrounding Colin’s arrest on March 14th and his subsequent detention for 13 days before he was charged. Many people will agree with the family’s view that Colin has again been the victim of a convenient frame-up by the state.
For the family, this is already a case of history repeating itself again. We are left with no choice but to once more campaign for justice on Colin’s behalf.
Many of our neighbours and friends in Lurgan and other surrounding areas have already been in touch to offer their assistance in our efforts to secure his release. Indeed, on the evening following his rearrest after a court had ordered his release, we were heartened by the many people (estimated by the BBC to number almost 250) who filled the North Lurgan community centre for a public meeting which had been called with less than twenty-four hours notice.
We could be despondent and despairing for the future. We could simply resign ourselves to asking - will this victimisation and persecution ever end? We know that is what those who have mounted this prolonged campaign against Colin would like us to do. But we will not accept this injustice and we most certainly will not remain silent.
Indeed, we shall challenge the wall of silence that challenges this and other injustices.
With the help of our many friends and good neighbours with the support of all those who believe in justice, we will continue with our efforts until Colin is back where be belongs - at home in Lurgan with his wife Martine, his children, and wider family.