Loughinisland: Special Branch officers could face criminal charges following Ombudsman's report

The victims were killed as they watched a World Cup match in the Heights Bar, Loughinisland in June 1994

SPECIAL Branch officers who adopted a "see no evil" approach to murder to protect loyalist informers could now face charges in the wake of the damning Police Ombudsman's report into the Loughinisland murders.

Families of six Catholic men murdered by loyalist gunmen in the Co Down village pub last night hailed the damning watchdog investigation that exposed significant police collusion with the killers.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire was scathing in his assessment of the police role in the sectarian massacre.

Two UVF gunmen burst into the packed Heights Bar on June 18 1994 and fired at customers watching a World Cup match. Six men were killed and five others injured. No one has ever been brought to justice.

The report showed that collusion was significant and was widely covered up. It was also highly critical of the initial investigation, listing "catastrophic failings" by the police.

Solicitor Niall Murphy said that as a result of the wide cover-up there is little chance of bringing the killers to justice. However, he believes that while officers failed to follow evidential leads, they may have left themselves open to criminal investigation.

"When you compare collective failings, with the lies we can now see were peddled, it would appear to me that there has been a perversion of the course of justice on an industrial scale.

"It's a matter for the prosecuting authorities but I imagine they'll be looking at this report very closely", he added.

PSNI chief constable George Hamilton said the report made "uncomfortable reading" and pledged to continue to co-operate with the ombudsman "if he determines to take this further".

South Down SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie said it was vitally important that the report was now referred to the Public Prosecutions Service.

The Republic's Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan also called for the report to be "carefully examined with a view to the question of further investigations and possible prosecutions".

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