Brown inquest ‘a public scandal’
Brown inquest ‘a public scandal’


It is now clear that key intelligence on the murder of Sean Brown has been withheld from his inquest as well as previous investigations.

A father-of-six, Mr Brown was well known in south Derry as a dedicated family man and chairman of his local Gaelic club. In May 1997, he was put in the boot of his own car and taken to a country lane outside Randalstown in County Antrim where he was shot six times.

Several loyalists suspected of being involved in the murder are believed to have been British state agents. No-one has ever been charged in connection with the crime.

During an inquest hearing into the murder last week, it emerged that the PSNI has declared the inquest is not an “appropriate vehicle” for an investigation into Mr Brown’s death after it “encountered issues” arising from what was described as “intelligence coverage”.

During the hearing, Des Fahy, acting for the family, said there is a suspicion that informers are being protected.

“The expression that is used in the letter…is ‘intelligence coverage’, I am wholly at a loss as to what that means,” he told coroner Patrick Kinney.

“But doing our best on behalf of the Brown family we believe that relates directly to the activities and protection of state agents and informers.

“And if that is so that is an issue of fundamental importance to the ability of this inquest to be conducted in a manner which is compliant with Article Two (of the European Court of Human Rights) which protects the right to life.”

Earlier this month it emerged that British government minister Steve Baker issued a Public Immunity Interest certificate (state censorship order) in relation to material provided by MI5.

The material in question has previously been withheld from an investigation by the Police Ombudsman, a PSNI re-investigation team and from the Dublin government.

It is believed the RUC Special Branch were fully aware of the plans and activities of the Mid Ulster LVF, both before and after the murder of Mr Brown.

There is evidence the gun used to kill him was been used in several other murders in the Mid-Ulster area.

Some of the suspected British agents involved have also been involved in other attacks on Catholic civilians, including the Drumcree-related murder of 59-year-old Elizabeth O’Neill in 1999.

A Protestant married to a Catholic, Ms O’Neill died after a pipe bomb was thrown through the living room window of her home in Portadown amid disturbances over the route of an anti-Catholic parade.

The Brown inquest, which opened in March, has been repeatedly held up due to PSNI disclosure delays.

Mr Fahy said the Brown family is concerned on several fronts, and said the PSNI’s bid to now shut down the inquest was “a public scandal”.

“There are multiple areas of concern that arise from this correspondence,” he said.

“But from the family’s point of view we consider the correspondence from the PSNI to be both high handed and arrogant in terms of how it appears the chief constable feels that he can direct the progress or lack of progress in this inquest.

“And there sems to be a total disregard for the fact that the inquest is at hearing, we have already begun the evidence at inquest in March.”

Mr Fahy said the Brown family view the latest intervention as a “calculated diversion”. The family’s lawyer Niall Murphy, of KRW Law, said it was “unprecedented and extraordinary”.

“The Brown family’s long-standing fear is that the state have known who killed Sean Brown, that his killers were paid state agents and that the state ensured that their employees, Sean’s killers were protected from prosecution.”

Mr Murphy said the Brown family are suspicious of the state’s motives.

“The family fear that as the time for truth as to who killed Seán draws closer, the state are now engaging in obfuscatory tactics to evade justice.”

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