Northern Ireland news

Inquest hears how John Finucane called for help after finding body of Tyrone republican in PSNI station

John Brady. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

AN inquest has heard how solicitor John Finucane, now a Sinn Féin MP, called for help after finding the body of Tyrone republican John Brady in a PSNI station.

Mr Brady was discovered hanged at Strand Road police station where he was being held in Derry in October 2009.

It has been claimed he was approached by members of the PSNI’s C3 unit, formerly known as Special Branch, before his death.

There has also been speculation that Mr Brady, who served a prison sentence for IRA offences and was later returned to jail after having his licence revoked, may have been put under pressure to become an informer before being found dead.

The Police Ombudsman, who investigated the case, has said there is no evidence to support the claims but confirmed that two intelligence officers did attempt to gain access to Mr Brady but were turned away by custody staff.

At an earlier hearing coroner Joe McCrisken was told that Mr Brady was arrested after a “scuffle” with his brother-in-law John Kennedy outside a primary school in Strabane in 2009.

Read More: Inquest hears that former IRA prisoner found dead in police cell was 'last person' likely to take own life

Mr Kennedy reported the incident to police and claimed his brother in law threatened to shoot him.

He was later arrested and brought to Strand Road PSNI station.

At the time of his death Mr Brady, who is originally from Strabane, was taking part in a pre-release scheme and had been allowed to return home at weekends.

The court heard that Mr Finucane, who was elected North Belfast MP last month, was unable to travel to Derry to meet his client the night he was arrested but had spoken to him by phone.

The following day he made his way to Strand Road PSNI station.

In a statement given in 2009, he said: “I had serious concerns that police had already come to a decision to charge John Brady and that bail would be denied.”

Mr Finucane said that in addition to speaking to a custody sergeant and investigating officers, he spoke an inspector about his concerns and made written representations.

The court heard that during discussions with police he had left Mr Brady unattended in a consultation room.

When he returned to the room he found the Strabane man hanging.

“I walked to the consultation room and opened the door and saw John was hanging,” his statement read.

He said that after realising what had happened he called “Help, help, I need help”.

Later in his evidence he told how officers came to Mr Brady's aid, followed by paramedics, and said he didn't re-enter the room.

Mr Finucane said that in the hours before Mr Brady's death “I felt he was in good form” and confirmed had did not see anyone go in or out of the consultation room.

Yesterday a detective inspector in C3, who was referred to as C3 Officer 1 and shielded from public view by a curtain, claimed that two of his officers had failed to gain access to Mr Brady while he was being detained in Strand Road.

A lawyer for the Brady family suggested “it is the suspicion” of the family that his arrest was “contrived” and that Mr Kennedy was acting as an “agent of the state” at the time.

A second officer, referred to as C3 Officer 2, was later asked by the lawyer “was it a set up between you, ie, C3 and Kennedy?”

The officer replied “No”.

The officer also denied he or his colleagues had any previous contact with Mr Kennedy.

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