Two in court linked to collusion
Two in court linked to collusion


A former RUC policeman and his partner have appeared in court on charges of helping to cover up the murder of Portadown man Robert Hamill more than 20 years ago.

In the dock of Craigavon Crown Court, ex-RUC man 69-year-old Cecil Atkinson and his wife Eleanor Atkinson, also 69, denied the charges against them.

The couple are accused of conspiring with others to pervert the course of justice on dates between September and October 30, 1997. In particular, it is alleged that they “agreed to give false information” those looking into the murder, which was the subject of a public inquiry in 2009.

A third accused, Kenneth Hanvey also of Portadown, also faces a charge of perverting justice, but did not appear in court.

Mr Hamill (pictured), a 25-year-old Catholic father-of-three, was attacked on April 27, 1997 in Portadown town centre at a time of loyalist protest over the ongoing Drumcree parade dispute.

A number of PSNI members, including Mr Atkinson, allegedly observed the attack but failed to intervene as Mr Hamill received a fatal beating. He suffered head injuries and died in hospital 11 days later.

It is also alleged that a phone call was subsequently made from the Atkinsons’ home to the home of Allister Hanvey — one of six people who were at one point charged with Mr Hamill’s murder.

After several attempts to quash the case, charges were finally reinstated against the three following a Judicial Review brought by Jessica Hamill, Robert’s mother. After 26 years of delays, this week was the first time any of the defendants have appeared in the Crown Court.

In court on Tuesday, both senior lawyers for both the defence and prosecution agreed the trial would take around a month to hear. The trial will not be heard until next year, but could be halted by new legacy legislation currently awaiting the approval of King Charles.

The Atkinsons have been released on bail.

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