PSNI officer said he 'was not aware' of killings in area which saw dozens of murders
A PSNI officer told the Police Ombudsman he did not think of starting an investigation into possible paramilitary links to a gun find as he was not aware of any murders in an area which saw dozens of Troubles killings.
The duty sergeant was speaking to investigators examining the police response to the discovery of a gun, ammunition and manuals at a house at Tamnamore near Dungannon last June.
The owner of the house is understood to have had no knowledge of the weapon, which was found by workmen and brought to Dungannon PSNI station.
When asked about the discovery by the Irish News last year, the PSNI initially said it it had “no knowledge” before later confirming that a weapon had in fact been found.
The duty sergeant, referred to as ‘Officer 1', told the ombudsman's office that the “manuals were in very bad condition” and were later “disposed of”.
The investigation concluded that by logging the weapon as ‘property found' instead of an arms find, it meant it was not properly flagged up to senior officers and when police press officers searched for details, it did not show up.
The weapon was discovered within a few miles of several attacks by the Glenanne Gang, which included members of the UVF, UDR and RUC and was responsible for dozens of murders in the 1970s.
A car used in a sectarian murder of a Catholic man in 1974 is believed to have been burnt out close to where it was found.
Between 1990 and 1994 more than 40 people were killed in Troubles-related incidents in the east Tyrone area.
A joint complaint was made to the ombudsman about the PSNI's initial denial of the discovery by Relatives for Justice and Anthony Fox, whose parents Charlie and Tess Fox were gunned down by the UVF at their home near the Moy in September 1992.
The report revealed that investigators "challenged Officer 1 that the way in which the incident was recorded on police information systems would have merely suggested that this was a case of 'property found' rather than an 'arms find'."
"He stated that he was not aware of any murders back in the 1990s in the area and he had no thoughts of starting an investigation into this gun being linked to paramilitaries, as he was not aware of any links or suggestions of this," it said.
“He was adamant that he did not try to hide weapons with possible links to paramilitaries.”
Another officer, referred to as ‘Officer 2', later confirmed he was “quite happy” with how the first officer had logged the incident.
However, the ombudsman said the complaint had been substantiated and “appropriate disciplinary sanctions were recommended” and have been “acted upon”.
It added that the PSNI's Legacy Investigation Branch is now dealing with the gun, with ballistics testing understood to have been completed.
Last month Mid-Ulster SDLP councillor Denise Mullen, whose father Denis Mullen was killed by the Glenanne gang in September 1975, criticised the time taken to complete forensic tests.
Charlie and Tess Fox's son Anthony last night slammed the police investigation, a quarter of a century after the murder of his parents.
“We find it incredulous that any serving police office would not be aware of sectarian murders in the mid-Ulster area in the 1990s.”
Mike Ritchie from Relatives for Justice also said the officer's claim "lacks credibility".
Police said last night: "The recommendations made in the Police Ombudsman's report have been actioned by PSNI."