Former RUC police chief Ronnie Flanagan lied on oath about the murder of Robert Hamill, the inquiry into his murder was told on Tuesday.
His reputation was “in tatters” because of how he engaged with the investigation into the killing, Barra McGrory, lawyer for the Hamill family, told the inquiry.
Mr McGrory also pointed to an anti-Catholic mentality in relation to how the RUC (now PSNI) chose not to intervene during the fatal attack on Mr Hamill, and in the subsequent murder investigation. No one has been convicted of the killing.
At the hearing in September, Flanagan denied a significant claim by a senior retired British civil servant Anthony Langdon. Langdon said Flanagan had suggested to him that Mr Hamill could have died from oxygen starvation due to the manner in which a member of the Hamill family cradled his head.
Flanagan also denied that he told Langdon that Mr Hamill’s sister Diane was pursuing an agenda to “discredit” the RUC.
Mr Langdon later in September stood over his account of his meeting with Flanagan.
“In my respectful submission, Sir Ronnie Flanagan has lied to the tribunal,” said Mr McGrory.
Flanagan’s denials were not the truth and the points made by Mr Langdon were correct, he said.
“He said them and he knows he said them. Therefore his creditworthiness before this tribunal is in tatters.”
Mr McGrory also referred to previous evidence that an RUC man who was in a police Land Rover close to the scene of the assault, subsequently advised one of the suspects to destroy his clothes.
This allegation was known to the murder investigation team in May 1997 and despite their conversations about the murder with Flanagan, the RUC Chief insisted he was unaware of the collusion allegations until June 2000.
Mr McGrory said it was “inconceivable” that Flanagan was not made aware of the collusion controversy in his conversations with Chief Superintendent Maynard McBurney in May 1997.
Mr McGrory also accused Flanagan of failing to properly brief the late British Direct Ruler Mo Mowlam about the circumstances of the murder when, after being pressed by the Hamill family, she asked him for information about the killing.
“The secretary of state was kept in the dark,” he said.
The attack and the failure of the investigation was due to Mr Hamill being a Catholic, Mr McGrory said. The tip-off to the suspect was motivated by anti-Catholic sectarianism, and this was illustrated by the RUC man’s subsequent decision to join the Orange Order, he said.
Mr McGrory said there was “no strategy but subterfuge” by McBurney, who led the “investigation” but instead buried the allegations.
What was clear, Mr McGrory said, was that “there’s nobody watching the detectives”.
“Something went wrong here,” he told the inquiry. “There are simply too many occasions on which he should have done something and didn’t do it [that lead] to the conclusion that he knew exactly what he was doing and that was nothing.”
Mr McGrory said such lack of supervision “corrupts the organisation, it corrupts the police force”.
“If the police force hasn’t got the moral fibre to root out one of its own bad apples it is failing fundamentally in its duties,” Mr McGrory said.
He said McBurney, now deceased, would have been aware of the enormity of pursuing the collusion allegations with the arrest of a serving RUC member.
“Chief Superintendent McBurney knew the ramifications of revealing that one of their police officers had done that, that in revealing he had and arresting him it would have had serious ramifications among the reservists, the police force and the broader population at that time.”
Mr McGrory also queried why the four armed policemen had not attempted to at least draw their weapons and fire warning shots to disperse the aggressive crowd of loyalists.
He criticised them for conducting a “substantial” conversation with youths known to be “troublemakers” despite warnings that a group of Catholics were approaching a notorious flashpoint area already teeming with loyalists. Their evidence was “tainted” or revealed their guilt, he said.
Closing submissions to the Hamill inquiry will continue for two weeks and the inquiry hopes to publish its findings by the end of next year.