There have been a number of positive developments in regard to historical cases this week. We detail seven cases in which families are coming closer to securing justice.
JOE McCANN ‘UNJUSTLY KILLED’
An inquiry by the police Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has found that British Paratroopers were ‘not justified’ in gunning down an unarmed OIRA man more than 40 years ago.
Joe McCann was shot in the back by a cowardly gang of RUC and British soldiers near the city centre in April 1972.
His widow Anne and her four children this week welcomed a Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report which confirmed that members of the Parachute Regiment’s First Battalion ignored the British army’s own rules of engagement in the killing.
The 24-year-old member of the Official IRA, was shot up to three times at Joy Street after two RUC Special Branch members identified him as he walked towards the Markets.
The report said his actions “did not amount to the level of specific threat which could have justified the soldiers opening fire in accordance with the army rules of engagement or their standard operating procedures.”
Mr McCann’s son Fergal said: “We are delighted with the findings because they are pretty clear and explicit about the facts.”
However, he was critical of the PSNI after it emerged that police failed to provide the identities of the Special Branch men involved.
“We are annoyed by that,” he said. “We thought that at this stage with change in the political landscape these things would come out and the PSNI would find out who they were.
“I would be pretty sure any Special Branch or CID person around at that time would know who was involved given Joe’s status.
“We are considering going to the Police Ombudsman and we will be challenging Matt Baggott on this.”
Of the three soldiers who fired shots at Mr McCann, two cooperated with the HET investigation and according to the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre they were also in the city on Bloody Sunday.
During the HET investigation standard operating procedures specific to the Parachute Regiment were uncovered.
It is understood that these procedures were never revealed to either of the two Bloody Sunday inquiries.
SECRET SHOOT-TO-KILL TAPE
One of the ‘Colombia Three’ looks set to have an IRA weapons conviction dating back 30 years overturned in his absence after it was confirmed that vital evidence was kept from the original trial.
Martin McCauley faces arrest in the North of Ireland on an outstanding international arrest warrant. The warrant related to his escape, with two others, from a prosecution by the Colombian government over allegations in 2001 that he was training a rebel group involved in that nation’s civil war.
But in 1982 McCauley was shot and seriously wounded by an murderous RUC team in a farm shed near Lurgan. His 17-year-old friend Michael Tighe was killed by the undercover unit who had staked out the shed.
Mr McCauley, from Lurgan, received a suspended sentence for possession of three rifles discovered in the shed.
The killing was one of six ‘shoot-to-kill’ cases investigated by John Stalker, who had served as assistant chief constable of Greater Manchester Police.
He was removed from the inquiry in disputed circumstances but later revealed in his memoir that, unknown to the RUC men involved, the entire incident had been secretly recorded.
“An electronic bug, installed by MI5, had been operating, concealed in the rafters, throughout the entire police assault on the barn,” Mr Stalker said.
“No-one in the security services or police could ever have possibly imagined that its use was to become known to the world, when one day, by accident, it eavesdropped on death.”
The secret recording was never made available to the defence or shown to the judge in McCauley’s original trial.
RUC men who gave evidence confirmed they were encouraged to lie in order to protect an informer.
Mr McCauley’s solicitor, Fearghal Shiels of Madden & Finucane, welcomed the decision.
“It is clear that the entire events which took place in the hayshed were monitored by the RUC,” he said.
“The existence of the tape and the vital evidence it contained was concealed from the defence and the judge who heard Mr McCauley’s trial.
“Given the conflicting accounts of the police on the one hand and the accused on the other of the events in the hayshed it is difficult to imagine a more crucial piece of evidence.”
FINUCANE CONCERNS REVEALED
One of David Cameron’s closest advisors has said the British Prime Minister knew that it was wrong to “renege” on a previous administration’s commitment to hold a public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.
Cameron has refused an inquiry but recently admitted collusion into the infamous murder of the Belfast defence lawyer. Despite a reent British report spelling out multiple examples of orchestrated collusion in the killing by the RUC police and MI5, Cameron insisted there was no ‘over-arching conspiracy’ which might implicate politicians.
But Jeremy Heywood, who is close to Cameron, admitted that the planned murder of Mr Finucane in front of his family was “far worse” than anything that took place in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Details of the emailed correspondence between the top civil servant and another senior Downing Street official were revealed as lawyers for the Finucane family pressed for complete disclosure of notes or recordings from a series of ministerial meetings.
They want the material released as part of their legal challenge to the British government’s refusal to order a full, independent probe into the 1989 assassination.
DOCUMENTARY PROMPTS NEW INVESTIGATION
The Police Ombudsman in the North has renewed the investigation into the role of the PSNI in the circumstances surrounding the murder of infamous informer Denis Donaldson.
Mr Donaldson was shot dead by unknown gunmen, said to be linked to the Real IRA, in a rural cottage near Glenties in County Donegal in 2006.
The former senior Sinn Féin official had confessed to spying for Special Branch and MI5 for decades just months before he was killed.
The Donaldson family say they have questions about the role of police in the circumstances surrounding his death.
They recently met with Ombudsman Michael Maguire to highlight their concerns. In a statement on Wednesday, the Ombudsman confirmed he will take another look at the case. The family has welcomed the decision.
Information uncovered by a BBC Spotlight programme in October 2011 revealed serious failings in the original investigation by the disgraced former Ombudsman Al Hutchinson.
The BBC revealed that the original investigation was declared closed without investigators speaking to a Special Branch agent handler who used the name ‘Lenny’.
It was a phone call from Lenny that sent Denis Donaldson fleeing to Donegal from his west Belfast home and he told his family he remained in contact with Lenny while in hiding there.
His family believes the agent handler may have the answers to what happened.
The BBC also established that Mr Donaldson had been writing a journal while living in Donegal. It was removed by garda officers investigating his death.
His family believe it could hold details of his life as an informant and potential clues about who killed him and why.
The family was initially told they would be given the journal when Mr Donaldson’s personal belongings were returned to them, but were later told it was being retained “for security reasons”.
Those working on the first ombudsman investigation were not even aware of the existence of the journal, it emerged.
MOVEMENT IN GAA MAN’S DEATH
Relatives of Gaelic sports official Sean Brown abducted and murdered by loyalists in 1997 has welcomed a long-delayed undertaking by the PSNI to pass police files on the case to the coroner’s office.
The development is significant in the 16-year effort by the family to have an inquest held, their solicitor Kevin Winters told a preliminary hearing in Belfast.
But the inquest may still not proceed until 2014 after it emerged that a fresh investigation by the Historical Enquiries Team could take until the end of the year to be completed.
The married 61-year-old was abducted by loyalists as he locked up the Wolfe Tone GAA sports club at Bellaghy, County Derry, in May 1997.
The politically uninvolved father-of-six, who was chairman of the club, was shot multiple times in the head and his body was dumped around 10 miles away near Randalstown.
Six-County coroner John Leckey described the killing as “one of the most despicable murders” that had occurred in the region.
Mr Winters welcomed the move. “The family is concerned about the passing of time,” he said.
SAS KILLERS MUST CO-OPERATE
SAS soldiers involved in the ambush and killing of two suspected IRA men almost 30 years ago have been asked to give fresh statements on their role and orders.
Daniel Doherty, and William Fleming, were shot dead in the grounds of the Gransha Hospital in Derry in December 1984.
Lawyers representing the families of the two men have now requested that the SAS soldiers provide new statements ahead of a fresh inquest into the controversial deaths.
An original inquest was held two years after the shootings, but two years ago attorney general John Larkin ordered another hearing after finding that police documents had been withheld from the coroner.
Fearghel Shiels of Madden and Finucane said the SAS personnel also did not reveal whether they had been involved in other “lethal force incidents”.
“We have requested that the soldiers responsible for killing the deceased provide new detailed statements outlining the planning and control of the military operation and providing details of other lethal force incidents where death or serious injury occurred,” he said.
NEW FULLERTON INVESTIGATION
A fresh inquiry into the 1991 murder of Sinn Féin councillor Eddie Fullerton in Buncrana is nearing completion and a report is expected to be published this summer, the murdered Donegal man’s daughter has revealed.
She was told the North’s Police Ombudsman is following “hundreds of lines of inquiry” - unlike the 26 County authorities, who have shown little interest in the case.
The Sinn Féin politician was killed in his Cockhill home by the UDA in front of his wife Dinah in May, 1991. The murder has since been surrounded by allegations of RUC collusion.
Hs daughter Amanda Fullerton said she was confident that the investigation will explore the killing fully.
“For the Fullerton family this is the first time we have felt that there has been any kind of a proper investigation in relation to daddy’s murder. On the face of it, it is thorough, positive and highly professional. The shambolic response by the Irish authorities to our complaints are no comparison to the police ombudsman’s investigation.”