Northern Ireland news

Investigating 'ordinary' crime in extraordinary circumstances

Former RUC officer Colin Breen

WHEN former RUC detective Colin Breen set about interviewing retired officers about their experiences working during the Troubles, he felt it important to include stories about 'ordinary' crimes that at the time went mainly unreported.

Speaking about his book A Force Like No Other, the author said: "People forget that day-to-day police work went on regardless of the mayhem that was happening all around."

One of the most difficult stories came from a former CID officer based in Belfast, who was called in to investigate a report of a 13-year-old boy being raped in a public toilet.

"The wee lad managed to give us a reasonable description of the guy and particularly notable was he had a Teddy Boy hairstyle," the retired detective said.

"I thought about this wee lad a lot, about the way he had been left and what had been done to him

"I decided the only thing I could do was go undercover."

He said a toilet attendant he struck up conversation with recognised the description of the suspected rapist and he went to an address in Sandy Row in south Belfast.

"Your man opened the door and he was a dead ringer for what the wee lad described."

The man was arrested and his young victim managed to pick him out of a line up and so he was charged.

However, after getting bail the suspected attacker fled the country.

"Years later, I got a call telling me this boy had been arrested in England," the former officer recalled.

"I went over and brought him back to Belfast. I went to see the victim, who was obviously our main witness, to tell him what I thought was good news.

"The wee lad was now a married man. He had children of his own and had blocked what had happened. He didn't want to go to court.

"I even tried to do your man for jumping bail but the DPP just said it's not cost effective.

"It's very frustrating as a policeman to have to watch someone like that walk free."

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