Northern Ireland news

New investigation into 1982 RUC murders to be led by Jon Boutcher

Retired Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Jon Boutcher is to investigate the murder of the three RUC officers

THE murder of three RUC officers in controversial circumstances is to be investigated by retired Bedfordshire chief constable Jon Boutcher.

Mr Boutcher has all but completed his Operation Kenova report into the IRA agent known as Stakeknife, with the findings expected to be published later this year.

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne has now asked him to head a separate investigation into a bomb attack which killed three policemen at Kinnego Embankment near Lurgan in Co Armagh in October 1982.

Sergeant Sean Quinn and Constables Allan McCloy and Paul Hamilton died instantly when their armoured Cortina was blown 70ft in the air by a 1,000lb bomb planted under the road and triggered by remote control.

The force of the blast left a crater 40ft wide and 15ft deep.

The killings were controversial because the explosives had been found by MI5 in a hay shed a few weeks earlier, packed in black plastic bags and covered with hay bales.

MI5 and army intelligence officers planted a listening device in one of the rafters and fixed wiring to the hay bales, designed to trigger a signal if the IRA moved them to get to the explosives.

However, the listening device failed and the IRA managed to remove the explosives, planting the bomb under the noses of British intelligence.

A signal from the trigger wire on the hay bales had been dismissed as animal movement since there had been no corroborating noise from the MI5 bug.

Two weeks later three local IRA men - Sean Burns, Eugene Toman and Gervaise McKerr - were shot dead by the RUC in controversial circumstances. None of the men were armed.

Intelligence reports linked Toman and Burns to the Kinnego bomb.

Following an independent review carried out by former Chief Constable Sir George Hamilton, investigative opportunities were identified in the murder of the three RUC officers.

Chief Constable Byrne said: "I have now asked for the assistance of Operation Kenova lead Jon Boutcher to head an external investigation team to carry out a separate independent investigation."

Mr Boutcher said: "I have met with the families of the three officers and have assured them of my commitment to this investigation.

"All they have ever wanted is to find out the truth of what happened to their loved ones, and I will do everything in my power to establish that for them.

"They have shown great dignity over the years and have asked for the press to respect their privacy - I would echo that to allow my team to focus on the investigation."

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