The son of a loyalist paramilitary shooting victim is set to mount a High Court challenge against the PSNI police over its failure to return his father’s clothes for an extraordinary 23 years after the massacre bid.
Ruairi Cummings says the PSNI have refused to hand over his father’s belongings despite a direction from the coroner that the items were no longer required to be held.
The 66-year-old Christy Cummings (pictured, in wheelchair) was left paralysed after the LVF loyalist death squad opened fire on him and three others at the front of the packed Glengennon Hotel, County Tyrone hotel on December 27, 1997. Fellow doorman Seamus Dillon was killed in the attack.
The men prevented a mass sectarian slaughter by stopping the LVF gunmen entering the hotel’s doors to a packed nightclub. No-one has ever been convicted over the shootings.
Items including military-issue camouflage make-up were discovered in an “observation point” overlooking the hotel. The make-up was traced to two British Army regiments which had never served in Tyrone, but nothing emerged from that line of inquiry.
A well-known loyalist killer is reported to had been connected to both the 1997 nightclub shooting and another unsolved loyalist murder. DNA evidence is believed to exist connecting the LVF suspect to the street assassination of Catholic father-of-one Adrian Lamph in 1998, the first victim of the conflict following the Good Friday Agreement.
The discovery was made during a recent review of conflict killings. However, the information was “never acted on” after the police file in relation to the 1998 killing was said to have been moved to MI5’s HQ in Co Down.
The serious allegations led to the Cummings’ lawyer writing to PSNI chiefs for an “unequivocal clarification” on the claims and the alleged assassin. Lawyer Kevin Winters also asked whether forensic exhibits were indeed transferred from the PSNI to British military intelligence.
The PSNI have also yet to take formal statements from both Christy and son Ruairi, who witnessed the horror shooting, according to a Sunday World report.
Mr Cumming’s son Ruairi (pictured, left) said the family had been battling with the PSNI for years to have the clothes he wore that night returned.
After consistent PSNI refusals without explanation, the 41-year-old Cookstown man has now instructed lawyers to challenge the PSNI in the High Court.
He said: “We are now going to take a judicial review in the case because of how they stored it, how they’ve handled it and why they are not giving it back. What are they hiding?
“All the other victims’ families have got their belongings back, why is my dad being singled out?”
He said the stress being caused to his family over the belongings is nearly as stressful as the case itself.
“It’s retraumatising and once again, the state is victimising us.
“I do believe the police have them and, for whatever reason, do not want to give them back or else they have destroyed them and haven’t told us. We want answers one way or the other.
“Daddy and the other people shot that night were heroes, the stopped gunmen entering a nightclub from carrying out mass murder. They were branded thugs back then and now he is still being treated like he done something wrong. It’s disgusting.”
Owen Beattie, a lawyer at KRW Law, said the PSNI had “persistently prevaricated” to return Mr Cummings’ personal belongings.
“We contend that police have failed to identify any sound legislative basis or reasoning underpinning their decision in this case,” he said.
“In the absence of such, our client is left with no alternative but to issue proceedings against the Chief Constable to secure the release of his property”.