Support for public inquiry into 1997 murder
Support for public inquiry into 1997 murder


A public inquiry may be required to obtain the truth about the murder of Gaelic sports official Sean Brown after a coroner’s court heard the case may be in “Litvinenko territory”.

A barrister for Mr Brown’s family said the coroner would have to assess whether a public inquiry would be needed as was ordered following the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian defector to Britain who was poisoned and died in 2006.

Barrister Stephen Toal made the remarks after the court was told that sensitive state material in the case impacted on issues of Britain’s ‘national security’, and also raised issues about previous investigations into Mr Brown’s death.

Mr Brown, 61, was abducted and killed in a case of suspected Crown Force/loyalist collusion in Bellaghy, County Derry in May 1997.

He was attacked and beaten by a loyalist murder gang as he locked the gates at Bellaghy Wolfe Tones Gaelic sports club in County Derry, in May 1997. After being placed in the boot of his own car he was taken to a country lane outside Randalstown, Co Antrim, and shot six times.

No-one has been convicted of his murder, which at the time was blamed on the LVF (Loyalist Volunteer Force), but which is increasingly being linked to the actions of the British state.

His inquest began in March and is scheduled to resume next year, but faces being cut short under controversial new legislation intended to ‘draw a line’ under the conflict.

Mr Toal said his clients were still “in the dark” about the new material that has been uncovered.

Nine files of state documents are currently undergoing a public immunity interest (censorship) review. Two folders of files were recently “found” by the PSNI which have cast a new light on the case.

Addressing the coroner he said: “Obviously the PII process will have to be convened in order for you to assess the relevance of that material and whether we are actually in the Litvinenko territory and whether ultimately a public inquiry is a more appropriate vehicle in order to look into the circumstances surrounding the murder of Sean Brown.

“We have confidence in you and your team because this matter has real momentum now and we can see that work is being done and it is being done expeditiously.”

The lawyer said the Brown family had confidence that work is being done “expeditiously” did not have the same level of faith in the PSNI police.

He added: “It is clear that all of the delays are at their door.”

In a statement the Brown family said they were “gravely concerned at the developments confirmed” in court and the “opaque representations made by police”.

The office of the Police Ombudsman has said it will be making enquiries with the PSNI after it agreed that newly disclosed information “raises issues in relation” to previous investigations.

Family lawyer Niall Murphy, of KRW Law, said that if the evidence is withheld from the families “then the coroner will be prevented from conducting an Inquest that complies with the right to life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

The family also made a direct appeal to the interim PSNI Chief Jon Boutcher to “personally intervene....such is the wider public interest in the already found failings in this case.”

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