New evidence of collusion in journalist’s murder

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The family of murdered Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan are to sue the PSNI for withholding information which could have prevented his murder.

In a BBC television documentary which was aired this week, a former British soldier revealed the British Army was aware three days before of the murder in 2001 that Mr O’Hagan was to be attacked by unionist paramilitaries.

Martin O’Hagan was the best known journalist to be murdered during the conflict. The father-of-three was gunned down as he walked to his Lurgan home after a night out with wife Marie. He was hit several times in a drive-by shooting, throwing himself in front of his wife to shield her from the shots.

The shooting was claimed by the Loyalist Volunteer Force. In the wake of the killing the then British Direct Ruler John Reid claimed that “no stone would be left unturned” in the hunt for the killers.

But despite the identities of the members of the killer gang being widely known, no one has faced a murder charge.

The programme comes in the wake of two Police Ombudsman reports which has uncovered systematic collusion between the PSNI (formerly RUC) and loyalists.

Speaking to the BBC, the former soldier, who remains anonymous, said he was aware of the identities of those who where involved in the assassination before it happened.

The soldier explained: “I reported who was going to carry out the hit. I also reported where the weapon was coming from. I also reported where the weapon was being hidden in that week and they assured me that they were going to stop it.”

During the course of the interview, the former British soldier said that he worked undercover and had close connections with unionist paramilitaries. It was also revealed the PSNI did not interview him, even though contact had been made with him in connection with the murder investigation.

Other details to be revealed included that information about the getaway car and its destruction had been passed to investigators, but despite this, the yard where the car was scrapped was never searched.

Seamus Dooley, assistant general secretary and Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), said the revelations came as no surprise to the union.

“The NUJ has been calling for an independent international investigation into Martin’s murder for some time,” he said.

“We have long believed that there was collusion and there is a very strong belief that there are people out there who know who killed Martin, and that they are being protected because of their association with security sources.”

Mr Dooley renewed NUJ calls for an inquiry into the murder by an international independent panel of experts.

“The latest revelations merely confirm our belief that there is a nasty smell of the entire episode,” he said.

“It is deeply disturbing, as with many unsolved murders in Northern Ireland, that there has been no prosecution over Martin’s killing.

“It remains a stain on Northern Ireland, and a stain on the entire history of media freedom in Ireland.

“We would have no confidence in anything other than an external international panel investigating the murder at this stage.”

Patrick Corrigan, of Amnesty International, said the new information was “disturbing”.

“It is incredible that, within 48 hours of Martin O’Hagan’s murder, the police were apparently provided with names, addresses and the various roles of the killers, yet failed to act,” he said.

“To this day, no-one has been held accountable. His killers literally got away with murder.”

Mr Corrigan said it has long been suspected that those who ordered O’Hagan’s murder were “paid police informants linked to an illegal paramilitary group”.

“One might imagine these things only happen in the likes of Russia,” he added.

“But Martin O’Hagan was murdered in ‘peacetime’ Northern Ireland, where - two decades after his murder - journalists continue to work in a climate of fear amidst regular death threats from such armed groups.”

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