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McColgan bullet casings have gone missing

Postal worker Daniel McColgan (20)who was shot dead by the UFF in 2002
Connla Young

Casings from bullets fired during the murder of Catholic man Danny McColgan have been lost, an inquest has heard.

The 20-year-old postal worker was shot dead by the UFF as he went to work on the outskirts of north Belfast in January 2002.

The father-of-one was shot several times by two gunmen as he arrived at a post office depot in the loyalist Rathcoole estate.

Senior Coroner John Leckey also heard that a dead loyalist linked to the murder was a member of a UDA 'punishment' squad.

Stephen McCullough was found at the foot of Cavehill in north Belfast in mysterious circumstances days after Mr McColgan was gunned down.

During yesterday's hearing it emerged that police recovered 13 bullet casings fired from two 9mm pistols.

Six were sent to Forensic Science Northern Ireland for testing while the PSNI sent the remainder to England for examination.

It has now emerged the seven casings sent to England have gone missing.

Andrew Moriarty, barrister for the McColgan family, said it was “absolutely extraordinary that bullet casings in a murder inquiry should be lost”.

A solicitor for the PSNI said the casings had been tested in 2002 but gave up no clues.

He was unable to say if they had been retested during a 2007 review of the case.

It was revealed that the weapons used to kill Mr McColgan included a stolen Beretta handgun and a “Browning type” pistol which had been used in two 'punishment' shootings, two attempted murders and several other attacks between 1997 and 2002.

However, two Public Interest Immunity certificates have been issued to the PSNI and British Ministry of Defence in the case and many of the documents handed over to the McColgan family’s legal team have been heavily redacted.

During the hearing in Belfast, retired PSNI senior investigating officer Roy Suitters said officers under his command failed to make him aware that loyalist Stephen McCullough offered information about the murder after he was arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

He described that as a “significant mistake” and confirmed that an officer had subsequently been removed from the investigation.

McCullough was later released from custody and hours later was found dead after falling from Cavehill in unexplained circumstances.

Special Branch documents read out at the inquest revealed that McCullough was involved in a UDA “punishment team in the Rathcoole area" and the court heard he may have had a role in the murder of Danny McColgan.

It also emerged that CCTV cameras at the postal depot, which should have been turned on, were in fact not recording.

Mr Moriarty revealed that other “intelligence documents” referred to Mr McColgan "being set up".

He said there were also documents referring to his “shift pattern being passed on” and suggested this could only have been done by “a fellow employee”.

After lengthy discussion Mr Leckey ruled that questioning of Mr Suitters about matters that could not be supported by evidence were "outwith the scope of the inquest".

It was claimed that a senior UFF figure had told members that Mr McColgan was murdered in revenge for the death of Protestant teenager Thomas McDonald who was killed in north Belfast September 2001.

He died after being knocked off his bicycle by a Catholic woman after a brick was thrown at her car at Whitewell Road in north Belfast.

The woman was later convicted of manslaughter.

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