Northern Ireland news

Jon Boucher to take on investigation of Glenanne Gang

Jon Boutcher is poised to take over the Glenanne Gang investigation
Connla Young

A LOYALIST killer gang which included members of the RUC and UDR is set to be investigated by former English police chief Jon Boutcher.

The UVF's Glenanne Gang is believed to have killed up to 120 Catholics in the 1970s.

A former chief of Befordshire Police, Mr Boutcher is expected to meet with relatives of some of the victims later today.

The gang was responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the Troubles, with members believed to have been involved in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings which resulted in the deaths of 33 people including a pregnant woman.

The fresh probe comes months after the Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled that bereaved relatives were being denied their legitimate expectation that an independent police team will oversee an investigation in the activities of the gang.

A draft PSNI Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report into the activities of the gang was said to have been 80 per cent complete before being halted in 2010.

At a court hearing last week Sir Declan Morgan refused police leave for the ruling to be referred to the Supreme Court in London, instead leaving it up to that court to decide if it wants to take the case on.

A police spokesman last night said: “As we have previously stated, PSNI is actively seeking to put in place an independent review into these matters.”

A spokesman for Mr Boutcher declined to comment.

Darragh Mackin of Phoenix Law, who represents some relatives, said: “It is to be warmly welcomed that an independent police force has been appointed in light of the very strong comments from the High Court and Court of Appeal.

“There can no longer be any justification for delaying justice for the Glenanne families.”

Kevin Winters, of KRW Law, said: “We welcome the development, it's a huge step forward for many families and we are engaging with Jon Boutcher directly on the terms of reference and we understand they are almost complete.”

SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly also welcomed the latest development.

“The piecemeal approach to dealing with the past is far from satisfactory and far from what was promised to victims in terms of truth, justice and accountability,” he said.

Mr Boutcher has already agreed to take on three other high-profile investigations relating to the Troubles.

In 2016 he was appointed to lead Operation Kenova, which was set up to probe the activities of the British agent known as Stakeknife.

He has been named as Freddie Scappaticci, although the west Belfast man denies being a state agent.

Earlier this year Mr Boutcher agreed to lead an investigation into an IRA explosion that claimed the lives of three RUC men at Kinnego Embankment near Lurgan in Co Armagh in 1982.

His team is also looking into the killing of Jean Smyth-Campbell in west Belfast almost 50 years ago.

The 24-year-old was shot in the head as she sat in the passenger seat of a car at a bus terminus on Glen Road in June 1972.

An undercover British army unit known as the Military Reaction Force is suspected by some to have been responsible.

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