New evidence points to cold-blooded killing
New evidence points to cold-blooded killing


The Police Ombudsman is to examine the death of a republican 25 years ago after relatives of IRA Volunteer Colum Marks brought a High Court challenge over the ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy of planned state executions.

Colum Marks was shot dead by the RUC police during a planned mortar attack on Crown forces in Downpatrick, County Down in 1991. The RUC was aware of the IRA operation more than eight hours before the shooting, but killed Mr Marks instead of attempting an arrest.

Lawyers for the family had been taking legal action in a bid to force the Police Ombudsman, Michael Maguire, to investigate the circumstances of the killing. The ombudsman had said he could not do so because the RUC had already ‘investigated’ the shooting.

But that all changed when an eyewitness came forward two months ago. The eyewitness has said that on the night of the shooting he saw a man, believed to have been Colum Marks, being walked along a street under police guard.

He said it was clear the man was under arrest, and that three RUC members were with him. That completely contradicts the RUC version of events.

Lawyers for the Marks family disclosed the new information to the ombudsman.

“This new information fundamentally undermines the police account of what happened,” said family lawyer Gavin Booth.

“It supports the family’s claim that Colum was shot after being arrested, at a time when police must have known he was not armed, and that this was clearly a shoot-to-kill operation.”

In a statement, the Police Ombudsman said an assessment of the case will now be carried out to establish when the investigation can begin. The family subsequently withdrew their legal action in the High Court on Thursday.

“In light of the new evidence it is now abundantly clear this is a shoot to kill operation by the RUC,” said Mr Booth. “A number of questions still remain unanswered in relation to Colum’s death.”

South Down Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard also welcomed the development.

“This is welcome news for Colum’s family, friends and the wider community here in Downpatrick,” he said.

“I hope this investigation will help get to the truth of what happened and I call on the RUC officers involved in Colum’s killing to cooperate fully with the Ombudsman’s investigation.”

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