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Victim's daughter calls for independent investigation into Glenanne without further delay

Relatives of those killed by a loyalist gang in the Gleanne area of Armagh in the 1970s pictured at the High Court in Belfast. Picture Bill Smyth.

ONLY a major independent probe can get to the truth of controversial collusion claims involving a notorious UVF unit responsible for more than 100 murders during the Troubles, campaigners have said.

The call for a "fully resourced and robust" inquiry came after High Court judge Justice Treacy yesterday ruled that police chiefs unlawfully frustrated any chance of an effective inquiry into suspected state collusion with the Glenanne Gang.

Its members included serving officers of the RUC and the UDR. It was responsible for killings such as the Miami Showband massacre in 1975 and the Step Inn pub bombing in Keady in Co Armagh a year later.

The senior judge held that families of victims were denied in their legitimate expectation that the now-defunct Historical Enquiries Team (HET) would publish an overarching report on the UVF gang's killing spree throughout the 1970s.

A draft HET report into alleged security force collaboration with the killers was said to have been 80 per cent finalised before being shelved by former Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

Lawyers have been given until the start of September to try to agree on the appropriate form of relief in the case.

Anne Cadwallader, whose book Lethal Allies investigated collusion between the gang and the security forces, said the ruling went further than even the families imagined.

"They are overwhelmed. But it is also tinged with sadness because people are thinking of their loved ones and those who never lived to see this day.

"Judge Treacy said there must be a fully resourced, robustly independent, inquiry which is what the HET promised, but were prevented from delivering", she added.

In a joint statement issued through the Pat Finucane Centre the families said they have "yet to receive any acknowledgement, let alone apology, from the British government for its role in the murder of their loved-ones".

SDLP councillor Denise Mullen, whose father Denis - also a prominent member of the SDLP - was murdered in the family's Moy home in September 1975, said while she welcomed the ruling it signalled the start of "yet another lengthy process" for the victims' families.

"I don't want convictions," she said. "We've gone past that but I do want answers as to who ordered and protected those who murdered my father....It has taken us five years to get where we are. Many of the families don't have another five years.

"We need an independent and thorough investigation and we need it now, not for this not to be kicked down the road yet again."

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, who heads up the service's Legacy & Justice Branch, said police "noted" the comments made in court by the judge in relation to the judicial review.

He said the PSNI would consider the judgment "carefully" when it is published in full in the next few weeks.

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