Community policeman killed by his own colleagues
Community policeman killed by his own colleagues


An inquest has heard allegations that the RUC murdered one of their own members after he had uncovered the force’s collusion with unionist paramilitaries.

Sergeant Joseph Campbell was shot dead outside Cushendall RUC station in County Antrim in February 1977.

Mr Campbell’s family believe elements of the Crown Forces colluded with infamous UVF leader and serial killer Robin Jackson to shoot dead the 49-year-old father of eight.

It is believed Mr Campbell was potentially targeted because he had uncovered a loyalist arms smuggling operation.

His widow has accused the RUC of failing to protect him and abandoning her family.

A second inquest into the shooting, which the family has long campaigned for, began hearing evidence last Thursday in Belfast Coroner’s Court.

On the opening day, Mr Campbell’s widow Rosemary, condemned the RUC (now PSNI) for not protecting him despite being aware of threats against him. She said the force had closed ranks and allowed the perpetrators to act with impunity.

“When Joe died, the RUC said they would look after us,” she said in a statement that was read to court.

“But as a family we felt abandoned. I recall going to RUC headquarters regarding compensation for Joe’s death. I received a payment of £1,900 in compensation for losing Joe.

“Despite Joe being one of their own, the RUC were not supportive. And, to be honest, I felt they were more interested in monitoring what we as a family may have known about the murder, rather than actively helping us, Joe’s family.

“Even after Joe died, I recall one of my sons was walking through the village when a policeman blocked his path and told him that he would go the same way as his dad.”

A former RUC Special Branch officer, now deceased, was charged in 1981 with Mr Campbell’s murder, but was acquitted at trial.

In 2014, an investigation by the Police Ombudsman found RUC Special Branch was aware of a death threat against Mr Campbell but ‘failed to inform him’. The report by the Ombudsman also identified a series of ‘investigative failings’.

In her statement, which was read to coroner Patrick McGurgan by a lawyer, Mrs Campbell recalled how the family had received threatening phone calls prior to the murder and mocking calls after her husband’s death.

She said the family were repeatedly stopped by the Crown Forces in often hostile encounters in the years after the shooting.

“Since Joe’s murder, all my family and I have ever wanted was truth and justice,” she said.

“I cannot understand why the RUC let this happen.

“Joe was a Catholic from southern Ireland serving in the RUC. He was a good man trusted by everyone. It’s completely unfathomable to me that the RUC right up to, and including the chief constable, knew there was a threat to Joe’s life, and where that threat emanated from, yet they still did nothing to protect him.

“Rather than bringing the culprits to justice, they closed ranks to protect their organisation, not only in what they said and did, but also in their silence by refusing to co-operate with all subsequent inquiries.”

She added: “Joe tried to protect and support the people of Cushendall. The RUC tried to say it was just some bad apples and every police force has them.

“At the end of the day, the murderers and their co-conspirators were able to act with impunity to walk away from this. My husband, my family and I, did not.”

Mrs Campbell said she had met three different RUC/PSNI chiefs about the murder, but she singled out the late John Hermon and George Hamilton for criticism.

Hermon told her to “move on” and accused her of “reading too many fairy stories”, she said. In a visit to her home, Hamilton admitted that he had not even bothered to read the Police Ombudsman’s report.

Mrs Campbell said: “In my opinion, George Hamilton appeared more interested in agreeing a figure for compensation. At one stage he said, ‘how much is this going to cost me to make this go away?’

“As George Hamilton was leaving, I actually felt sorry for him, that a man whose office should command such power and respect chose to use his one and only visit to the home of a murdered colleague to make light of Joe’s death.”

She added: “I’m sad and angry and frustrated that after 46 years, no public official is able to tell me who it was that murdered my husband, or the reason why he was murdered.”

Mrs Campbell said her family needed answers and the truth.

“(He was a) loving husband and father and a proud and dedicated community officer whose commitment to his job ultimately led to his entirely preventable and heinous murder,” she said.

Mr Campbell’s second oldest son, also named Joe Campbell, said his father paid “the ultimate price” for attempting to build an inclusive community in Cushendall.

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