Northern Ireland news

Durham Constabulary 'put words in mouth of Loughinisland suspect' Ronnie Hawthorn

 Ronald Hawthorne was filmed by a private detective as part of the documentary No Stone Unturned

A loyalist suspect in the murder of six people in Loughinisland was approached by police to make a statement in which he spoke about being "stressed" and no longer being able to work in west Belfast after being named in the documentary No Stone Unturned.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan last week said the granting of warrants which led to the arrest of journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey and searches of their homes and business premises last August was "inappropriate".

During the case Barry Macdonald QC, acting for one of the journalists, said an officer investigating the alleged theft of documents was concerned about the welfare of those "put in danger for merely having the misfortune of being involved in terrorist atrocities at whatever level".

He claimed Durham Constabulary, called in by Chief Constable George Hamilton to investigate the alleged theft from the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, was "on a mission" against the ombudsman and investigative journalists and had "put words in the mouth of a suspect".

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On Monday evening the PSNI and Durham Constabulary announced that they had dropped the probe, releasing the pair from police bail.

No-one has ever been convicted of the murders of six men shot dead by loyalists while watching a football match in The Heights Bar in Loughinisland 1994.

Ronnie Hawthorn, one of the loyalists named in the documentary as a suspected member of the UVF gang said to have been responsible for the massacre, said in a statement that he was visited by police about eight hours before the film was to premiere in London.

He said he was asked about the impact of the film on his life.

Hawthorn has previously described the the allegations in No Stone Unturned as “unfounded” and said it represented “a speculative, reckless, and irresponsible attempt at an exposé, which now is the subject of a police investigation”.

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In a statement to Durham Constabulary, Hawthorn said: "I've been asked how I feel about documents from PONI in a film which names me as a gunman at Loughinisland 1994, and alleged I was conspiring to murder.

"Well I don't know that there are enough words to express it. PONI is a public service and they obviously don't take care of their documents".

Speaking about a visit by police prior to the documentary being released, Hawthorn said: "I went into lockdown at home. By this I mean I had to make sure I had all the basic security measures in place that I could at my home address.

"I also had to think that my wife could be affected too because we live at the same address."

Hawthorn went on to complain how his contract cleaning business was impacted by the claims about role in the atrocity.

"Prior to the production of this film I had no issues, now I have to think about going to the shop, where it is, going to work where that is, and be aware of my personal security.

"The thought of bringing myself, my wife or other members of the public into a nationalist area is just asking for trouble.

"I wouldn't want a whole load of police cars up the Ballymurphy Road having to fill out reports because I've been attacked, when the simple matter of fact is I now have to just stay away from those places and don't go there.

"I have been asked how this affects me. I know myself that I am stressed, I hear every creak in the house at night or every floorboard or every time the dog barks."

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