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Coroner: I will pull out all the stops for Brown inquest

Published 16/01/2014

Maeve Connolly




CORONER has pledged to "pull out all the stops" to have an inquest into the loyalist murder of south Derry GAA official Sean Brown held "as soon as possible".

John Leckey said he had always felt the 1997 killing was "one of the most horrendous murders in the course of the Troubles and I would be keen to give some priority to it".

Mr Brown was abducted by an LVF gang as he locked up Wolfe Tones GAC in Bellaghy and found shot dead beside his burning car near Randalstown, Co Antrim.

Relatives of the father-of-six have been critical of delays in the repeated case and this month threatened legal action unless the inquest goes ahead.

One area of concern was a failure by the PSNI to pass case files to the coroner's office despite having given an undertaking 12 months ago to do so within days.

The coroner's court yesterday heard Ken Boyd, a legal representative for the PSNI, confirm that preparatory work on non-sensitive police documents should be finished by May or June.

The 24 files will have to be passed to the coroner for consideration and he has already received 64 sensitive documents which he said he would "move promptly" on.

The court heard that all relevant documents could be given to the Brown family's legal team by mid-summer and the case could be listed for hearing in early autumn.

However, Mr Leckey said a difficulty arose because of his full diary.

"As presently resourced the coroner's service could give no commitment to specify a date for the holding of this inquest," he said.

"I personally am involved in the inquests that are known as the Stalker inquests and there is a possibility they are going to start in the new year."

Lawyer Ian Skelt said the Brown family "dearly wish for an inquest" and urged the coroner to schedule it for the autumn if possible, but said he was aware that Mr Leckey was involved in many other cases.

The coroner said he was prepared to do everything in his power to have the inquest held promptly.

"If we reach a stage where the Sean Brown inquest can be held I will look at what my other commitments are and I will pull out all the stops to ensure there's a hearing as soon as possible," he said.

A further preliminary hearing will be held before the end of March.

Earlier this month the Brown family said "tortuous delays" in the "long overdue inquest" had added to their grief and they felt the case "has moved backwards".

They were speaking after a preliminary coroner's court hearing was adjourned.

Meanwhile, a large majority of families surveyed about their experiences of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) have said it should be disbanded.

Four out of 10 relatives also said they were definitely not glad they had engaged with the cold case unit, with only 12 per cent expressing unequivocal satisfaction.

Almost three quarters of the 82 people who agreed to be interviewed by academic Professor Bill Rolston said the HET should be disbanded.

Mark Thompson, director of Relatives for Justice, last night said they were important findings which "reflect the experience by and large we have had with over 250 families who have engaged in the process".

Mr Thompson also called for all completed HET reports to be released.