Justice hopes fade for Hamill family
Justice hopes fade for Hamill family


A judge has said evidence of collusion in the sectarian mob murder of Robert Hamill is insufficient to put the accused on trial.

Mr Hamill, a Catholic aged 25, was beaten by the gang in Portadown, County Armagh, in April 1997, while the RUC police watched. He never regained consciousness and died in hospital.

The case involved a member of the RUC allegedly tipping off a former suspect.

Mr Hamill, a father-of-three, suffered serious head injuries and died 11 days after the attack. Charges were brought against six men, but charges against five were dropped and the sixth person was acquitted following a trial.

Allegations that the RUC failed to intervene to help Mr Hamill and helped to arrange a cover-up were the main subject of a subsequent public inquiry.

The police reserve constable Robert Atkinson, his wife Eleanor Atkinson, and another man, Kenneth Hanvey, were subsequently accused of offences including conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

According to the court statement, a phone call was made from reserve constable Atkinson to the home of a former suspect in the killing, Allister Hanvey, during which he advised him to destroy the clothing he was wearing at the time of the incident and later, kept him up to date on the police “investigation”.

Mr Atkinson claimed his phone had been used by another man, Michael McKee, the uncle of Mr Hanvey’s girlfriend.

At the time, Mr McKee and his then wife Andrea, and the policeman’s wife, Eleanor Atkinson, all gave statements supporting Mr Atkinson’s version of events.

However, McKee’s former wife Andrea Jones became a key witness when she contradicted this and said that she had been asked by her ex-husband to make the false statement.

In April 2003 the director of public prosecutions began a long-delayed prosecution, but District Judge King said yesterday he found Ms Jones to be “an entirely unreliable and utterly unconvincing witness”.

It is the second time in little over a year that the case had been thrown out of court based on the judge’s view of the evidence of Ms Jones.

The abandonment of the trial means it seems unlikely that anyone will now be ever convicted of the murder of father-of-three.

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