Rosemary Nelson Inquiry finds PSNI ‘failures’

The report of a public inquiry has claimed that British state agencies did not directly collude with loyalists who assassinated high-profile human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson in Lurgan 1999.

It said that it could not exclude the possibility that a rogue member of the Crown forces had been involved.

British Direct Ruler Owen Paterson told the Westminster parliament that there were PSNI (then RUC) had failed to protect the lawyer.

He said that the British government was “profoundly sorry” for these failures. “It is also deeply regrettable that despite a very thorough police investigation no-one has been charged for this terrible crime,” Mr Paterson added.

Mrs Nelson represented several high profile clients including prominent republican Colin Duffy and the Garvaghy Road Residents Association.

Loyalist paramilitary group, the Red Hand Defenders, claimed responsibility for killing Mrs Nelson in a booby-trap bomb attack.

Mrs Nelson had received death threats from members of the Crown forces prior to her death.

In September 1998, six months before she was killed, Mrs Nelson travelled to Washington and outlined her concerns while giving evidence to a US government committee hearing on international human rights.

In her testimony, she said she had begun to experience difficulties with the RUC while representing “clients detained for politically motivated offences”.

Others also expressed concern, and called on the RUC and the government to take steps to protect her.

However, the inquiry report detailed how RUC members had “legitimised her (Mrs Nelson) as a target” by publicly abusing and assaulting her in Portadown in the years before her death.

It said there had been a “corporate failure” to take the threats against her seriously enough - essentially saying those threats were not properly investigated.

There are some very critical remarks about the PSNI (then RUC) police. For example, that some officers in the criminal investigation department (CID) harboured resentment against Mrs Nelson and were prepared to voice that “in the most unacceptable way”.

The report pointed to a very hostile view of Rosemary Nelson which it says would have contributed to making her a target in the eyes of loyalists.

In particular, it that police within Special Branch and at RUC headquarters regarded Mrs Nelson as an active supporter of the IRA.

It also said in considering the threat posed to her, RUC Special Branch ignored “the open information available to them”.

Mrs Nelson’s brother, Eunan Magee, told a press conference that his overriding emotion in response to the report was great sadness. “This was a devastating loss,” he said.

He said that Mr Paterson had seen fit to gloss over the findings and urged people to read the whole report.

The report showed that the PSNI had “solicited Rosemary’s death”, he added.

Former British Direct Ruler Shaun Woodward said the report was “disturbing” and had raised serious issues about the PSNI police and the British government’s Northern Ireland Office.

“This makes uncomfortable reading for both agencies,” Mr Woodward said.

“Her death was not inevitable, the reduction in risk to her was not reasonable and there were failings in efforts to reduce the threat.”

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