Ombudsman forces mother to relive her grief

The mother of a Catholic murdered by the unionist paramilitary UDA has added to calls for Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson to resign after she was again fobbed off over a report on her son’s murder.

Marian Walsh made the call alter being told she could not hear details of a report she had waited almost eight years to see.

Seventeen-year-old Damien was shot six times in the back in March 1993 when two gunmen entered a coalyard at a shopping complex where he was working.

It later emerged the British Army had the complex under observation at the time of the killing after an IRA informer had passed on information relating to a nearby arms dump.

In January 2004, Mrs Walsh asked former ombudsman Nuala O’Loan to investigate the circumstances of her son Damien’s murder amid allegations of Crown force collusion.

More recently the west Belfast woman was told that, while the investigation was complete, details would not be released because of questions over the independence of the Ombudsman’s office.

Earlier this month a Criminal Justice Inspection (CJI) report found serious deficiencies within the Ombudsman’s office.

After this, the Ombudsman’s office was instructed to cease all historic cases until a review could be carried out. Damien’s case is among seven completed reports being withheld as a result of the CJI report.

However, it has now emerged that the Ombudsman’s office will be reviewing itself.

The family have been given no indication as to when they will be allowed to see the findings of the eight-year investigation.

At what was described as a “robust” meeting with Mr Hutchinson this week, the family asked why the case had to date taken almost eight years.

“If this review is being carried out because of questions about the ombudsman’s performance how are we meant to have any confidence when he is overseeing the process himself?,” Mrs Walsh asked.

“It’s time for Al Hutchinson to leave and an independent body brought in to end this charade.”

She added: “Having already waited almost eight years, we’re now left not knowing when, if ever, we will get to see the findings.

“We have been through two ombudsmen and countless investigators.

“Each time someone new is appointed to oversee the case I have to go through the experience again from the start.

“I have to relive that moment standing in the City Hospital being told my child was dead.

“At this point we don’t even know if the British Army have co-operated with the ombudsman and handed over vital information regarding the covert surveillance on the night of my child’s death.”

Mrs Walsh said the system needed to change.

“There needs to be a dedicated team in charge of historic investigations and not the ad hoc system in place at the minute,” she said.

“My family have been let down on so many levels by so many agencies -- the RUC, PSNI, HET and the ombudsman.

“I have waited eight years. I haven’t got another eight years left in me.

“You live in hope that there is still a possibility of justice.”

Shauna Carberry of Relatives for Justice (RFJ) said the family had been “re-traumatised by the process”.

“Not another penny of public resources should be spent propping up this failed agency,” she said.

“The Walsh family have effectively been on a roundabout for the past eight years and are no closer to finding out the truth about Damien’s murder.”

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© 2011 Irish Republican News