Northern Ireland

No ‘credible new evidence of police collusion’ to warrant new probe into double sectarian murder linked to Johnny Adair

Johnny Adair said he is "disgusted but not surprised" by the revelations
Johnny Adair

No credible new evidence of police collusion has emerged to justify any revived investigation into a double sectarian murder allegedly linked to former loyalist terror chief Johnny Adair, the Court of Appeal ruled on Tuesday.

Senior judges rejected claims that a legal test required to further probe the killing of two Catholic council workers had been met.

James Cameron, 54, and Mark Rodgers, 28, were gunned down by the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) at their work depot on Kennedy Way, west Belfast in October 1993.

The double murder was carried out three days after ten people died in a notorious IRA attack on the city’s Shankill Road.

Mr Cameron’s son, Colm Cameron, mounted a legal challenge amid suspected security force involvement with the loyalist unit responsible for the shootings.

He claimed police have failed to complete a proper investigation into his father’s death which complied with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In an appeal after the case was dismissed at the High Court, the three-judge panel heard the killings occurred amid heightened tensions over the Shankill Road attack.

They were told that a book on Adair contained allegations he informed police of plans for “mass murder” in response to the IRA bombing.

Counsel for Mr Camerson argued that no apparent action was taken to monitor the loyalist boss or his UFF C Company unit.

The court heard that the Kennedy Way depot was an obvious potential target because of its Catholic workforce.

Issues were raised about why a vehicle checkpoint was stood down an hour before the gunmen arrived without any proper explanation, and the apparent failure to disrupt C Company when retaliation for the Shankill bomb was likely.

In 1995 Adair, nicknamed “Mad Dog”, was convicted of directing terrorism and sentenced to 16 years in prison, only to be released early as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

An internal power struggle eventually led to him being ousted and expelled from the paramilitary organisation in 2002.

Further concerns were raised that the gun used to kill the council workers was part of an arsenal of rifles allegedly smuggled into Northern Ireland from Lebanon by British agent Brian Nelson.

In 2012 the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team (HET) carried out a review into the killings, but no report was provided to Mr Cameron’s family before the investigation branch disbanded.

Mr Cameron claimed unlawful failures to release those findings and a breach of an Article 2 duty which only came into force in October 2000.

Under the so-called ‘Brecknell’ legal test, fresh plausible or credible information about perpetrators was required to establish any retrospective investigative obligations over murders carried out seven years prior to that date.

Resisting the legal action, police set out how two people were charged, convicted and jailed in connection to the attack - including a man who admitted both murders and UFF membership.

A senior PSNI detective also stated that during the original investigation 60 suspects were interviewed, 16 arrests made and fingerprints checked against 78 people believed to be associated with the loyalist paramilitary grouping

Searches were also carried out at 27 houses across Belfast, with clothing, shoes, books and a car seized for forensic analysis.

Ruling on the challenge, Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan backed the PSNI’s case there was no credible evidence of collusion.

“In our view this is a valid submission,” she said.

Dame Siobhan held that a state of knowledge of potential collusion in Northern Ireland cannot establish a valid claim for reviving the investigative obligation by itself.

“A generalised claim that collusion may have occurred in other cases cannot be read across to meet the test in this specific case,” she added.

“Similarly, the trial judge could not rely on a book recounting claims of what actions individuals might take following the Shankill Road bombing.”

Dismissing Mr Cameron’s appeal, the Chief Justice concluded: “We are sympathetic to the family of the appellant who have suffered, as many families have suffered, because of the Troubles and who are keen to obtain as much information as possible regarding the tragic death of their loved one.

“However, we must apply the law when assessing whether there should be a revival of the investigative obligation.

“Having done so we must reject the appellant’s arguments and affirm the decision of the trial judge.”

Outside court, Mr Cameron’s solicitor, Kevin Winters, said: “Whilst disappointing, this is a welcome reassessment on what’s needed to establish a fresh Troubles related investigation.

Mr Winters added: “Given the UK Government’s looming Legacy Act it won’t be too long before bereaved families are deprived of the chance for judicial oversight on Troubles cases.

That will be a sorry day for all conflict-bereaved.” ends