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Sinn Féin deny PSNI deal over Robert McCartney

Former senior PSNI officer Peter Sheridan
Connla Young

The Police Ombudsman has spoken to a former assistant chief constable over allegations that PSNI did a deal with republicans over the murder of Robert McCartney.

It is understood that Peter Sheridan spoke to Michael Maguire’s office last year.

The SDLP's former Policing Board member Alex Attwood is also believed to have spoken with ombudsman officials.

Mr Sheridan and Mr Attwood could not be contacted last night, but a spokesman for Sinn Féin said the claims of a deal are “untrue”.

The PSNI is alleged to have done a deal with republicans that information about who killed Mr McCartney could be provided if those alleged to have assisted in the clean-up of the scene of the knife attack were not pursued.

Mr McCartney was stabbed to death outside a Belfast city centre bar in January 2005.

It is understood a complaint about the PSNI’s handling of the investigation was made by the McCartney family in 2009.

It has emerged that Mr Attwood, a west Belfast MLA, claimed in an email to relatives that Peter Sheridan told him in a private conversation that a deal had been done over the PSNI’s probe into the killing.

The email read: ”During the meeting ACC Sheridan advised that at that time the investigation was proceeding on the basis that the persons involved in the murder would be pursued but not persons involved in the clean-up of the bar.

“He stated that those involved in the murder of Robert McCartney were the people of most interest to him and where the police would concentrate their efforts.”

Mr Attwood appeared to suggest a deal was done.

"It was made clear that one reason for this approach was that, arising from discussions with republicans, it was the understanding of the police that information on the murder of Robert McCartney and those involved could be forthcoming if the police were not to pursue the clean-up.”

A spokesman for Sinn Féin said yesterday: “This story is simply untrue."

“Sinn Féin has consistently stated that anyone with information about Robert McCartney’s murder should come forward.

“Sinn Féin members did so at that time and provided statements to the police.”

The spokesman added that Sinn Féin were critical of the PSNI’s handling of the case and pointed out "anomalies in their approach”.

“It is a disgrace that anyone should attempt to make political capital out of this case,” he said.

Once one of the PSNI’s most senior Catholic officers, Mr Sheridan retired from the force in 2008.

He is now chief executive of Co-operation Ireland, which encourages better relations between people on both sides of the border.

While Mr Sheridan could not be contacted last night, the Belfast Telegraph quoted him as saying that Mr Attwood’s claims “were not an accurate interpretation of our conversation”.

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman said: “It’s an ongoing investigation and we have some work to do. We have spoken to Peter Sheridan.”

Mr Attwood also could not be contacted for comment last night.

A spokesman for the PSNI said: “A PONI (Police Ombudsman) investigation is currently ongoing, therefore it would be inappropriate for PSNI to comment.”

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