Family vindicated by report, but justice campaign goes on
Family vindicated by report, but justice campaign goes on


The report of the Police Ombudsman into the assassination of independent nationalist councillor Patsy Kelly has found that the actions of the Crown Forces was indicative of “collusive behaviour” and that his family were “failed”.

In August 1974, the badly decomposed body of 35-year-old Patsy Kelly was discovered floating in Lough Eyes, Fermanagh. He was a father of four when he was murdered, he did not live to see his fifth child being born.

Just weeks earlier, the RUC had told local search parties not to go to the lake as it had already been dredged and searched by them. He had been shot several times, and his body tied to a heavy weight.

The Police Ombudsman admitted little more than the RUC investigation into the murder was “wholly inadequate”.

While loyalist paramilitaries claimed responsibility for the murder, the Kelly family have always believed the killing was perpetrated by members of a locally-recruited British Army patrol. No-one has ever been charged or prosecuted over the murder.

Among the failings identified by the Police Ombudsman, she found that a senior investigating RUC man showed “investigative bias”.

Mrs Anderson concluded that the withholding of intelligence from the murder investigation team and the failure to act on intelligence about an active unionist paramilitary unit in the Fermanagh area showed “collusive behaviour”.

Mrs Anderson noted a series of “significant” investigative failings, including a failure to adequately verify the alibis of UDR members and failure to record detailed witness statements; a failure to link cases; and forensic failings including failure to make inquiries about footwear marks.

The RUC also failed to recover a boat at Lough Eyes, with no record of fingerprint inquiries, and also failed to make inquiries about an anonymous letter, said the ombudsman.

As part of the investigation, one retired RUC man was reported to the prosecution service, but a decision was made not to charge him.

The Kelly family welcomed the ombudsman’s report and said it vindicated their almost 50-year campaign for justice. They have called for a fresh inquest into the killing.

The report’s findings are a major boost in the Kelly family’s pursuit of truth, but their fight for justice goes on. It comes against the backdrop of the British government’s proposed legacy bill, currently in the House of Lords, that prevents any new inquests.

Mr Kelly’s son, also Patsy, said the report had some damning elements.

“My God, how badly has my family been let down by men in uniforms?” he said, when speaking to the BBC.

Mr Kelly said his father was a councillor “who simply wanted to better his community for equality of jobs and housing those were the things that were motivating him on a daily basis.”

He said the report had not changed the family’s belief in what happened to his father, and that the RUC were protecting the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment.

“Today is highly emotional for members of our family – a campaign of 50 years searching for truth and today we are vindicated in terms of the failings of police investigations,” he said.

“We realise that today is a step forward in the overall campaign for truth and the next step in the process should be a fresh inquest that is granted immediately.”

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