Failure to investigate murder ‘shocking and disgraceful’
Failure to investigate murder ‘shocking and disgraceful’


The failures of the RUC/PSNI to properly investigate the sectarian murder of a north Belfast woman 47 years ago are “shocking and disgraceful”, the High Court has ruled.

A judge found that the police had breached a legal duty to take steps to bring anyone responsible for the brutal death of Rosaleen O’Kane to justice.

Ms O’Kane’s badly burnt and naked body was discovered at her flat in September 1976. Despite the RUC receiving information which named three individuals as potentially involved in the killing, they were never arrested.

In a scathing assessment of how the ‘investigation’ had been handled, Justice Humphreys described the behaviour of the RUC (later the PSNI) as “egregious” and “inexplicable”.

He said: “The manner in which this investigation was conducted was considerably worse than I had initially found.

“For a period of almost 50 years to elapse without obvious suspects being arrested, interviewed or even spoken to is frankly both shocking and disgraceful.”

It is believed Ms O’Kane was killed by a unionist paramilitary gang targeting innocent Catholics in the area at the time. The 33-year-old had a fractured skull and the flat was set alight at multiple locations. Following her funeral, RUC members indicated that she had indeed been murdered.

No-one has ever been prosecuted for her death, but in 2002 the PSNI informed relatives that a re-investigation was to be carried out. Since then, however, the case has been passed from one PSNI ‘legacy’ unit to the other, and sat untouched for the last seven years.

Ms O’Kane’s sister, Kathleen Graham, has now issued judicial review proceedings against the force.

At the centre of the challenge is information provided to the RUC back in 1976 by a man who who revealed three other individuals had been engaged in activity in the north Belfast area which was “suspiciously like” the incident which caused Ms O’Kane’s death.

In 2002 the PSNI identified a need to speak to the man but failed to do anything about it, and he died in 2011.

Justice Humphreys determined the situation was worse than when he previously stated that the family had been treated appallingly and “pushed from pillar to post”.

The deficiencies he highlighted included the failure from the outset to treat Ms O’Kane’s death as a murder investigation; the lack of any action between 1976 and 2002 concerning the identified suspects; and even when their addresses were identified, nothing was done.

Outside court, Ms Graham spoke of her vindication at the outcome.

She said: “The judge accepted what we have always believed - the police did not do what they should have done.

“If they had done their job right there was a good chance whoever did this would have been brought to justice.”

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2023 Irish Republican News