Irish Republican News · December 21, 2009
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
PSNI ‘to investigate itself’

Murders carried out by a notorious UVF gang in collusion with the RUC police are set to be investigated by the same police force which stands accused of ordering the killings, it has emerged.

‘Operation Ballast’, previously part of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), has already re-examined at least ten deaths blamed on the Mount Vernon UVF.

It is now set to be widened and taken over by detectives from the Serious Crime Branch of the PSNI, formerly the RUC.

The PSNI darkly said it was the most appropriate mechanism “to continue this important piece of work”.

Operation Ballast was set up after a damning report by former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan, who confirmed that UVF killers were protected from prosecution because they were police agents.

Ms O’Loan examined the allegations on the back of a complaint by Belfast man Raymond McCord, whose son, Raymond McCord Jnr, was murdered by the UVF in 1997.

Since HET took on the case files two years ago, its investigations have led to 20 people being either charged or reported to the Public Prosecution Service for a total of 23 offences including murder and attempted murder.

Among them is the alleged Mount Vernon gang leader and state killer Mark Haddock, who has been charged with two murders.

Nuala O’Loan described Haddock as a “protected species” despite being implicated in 16 murders, 10 attempted murders, 23 paramilitary-style shootings, beatings, extortion, arson and intimidation between 1991 and 2003.

Families of those murdered by the Mount Vernon UVF gang reacted angrily to the news which they described as a “sinister development” and one that was intended to protect the PSNI Special Branch and the force itself.

Sinn Fein policing board member Martina Anderson questioned the “public confidence of the PSNI in investigating themselves”.

“The central issue here, which must not be forgotten, is the findings that indicate collusion between the RUC Special Branch and those in the Mount Vernon UVF who were responsible for murdering citizens as well as countless other crimes,” she said.

“I would, even at this early stage, urge caution and indeed question the wisdom of the recommendation from the PSNI that would see the responsibility for the investigation move from the HET and into their hands.

“The Policing Board, which is the accountability mechanism in this instance, which measures the implementation of the Ombudsman’s recommendations, must look carefully into how best this investigation is proceeded with, doing so in conjunction with the wishes of the families involved.”

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© 2009 Irish Republican News