Northern Ireland news

PSNI urged to clarify circumstances of Mark Sykes arrest

Mark Sykes outside Musgrave Street police station in Belfast with his solicitor Niall Murphy
Connla Young

POLICE have faced a fresh call to clarify events around the arrest of Mark Sykes at the Sean Graham bookmaker’s anniversary event last week.

Mr Sykes was handcuffed and taken away by police at a commemoration for those murdered when a UDA gunman burst into the Ormeau Road premises in south Belfast and opened fire on February 5 1992.

Peter Magee (18), James Kennedy (15), Christy Doherty (51), William McManus (54) and Jack Duffin (66) were killed. Seven people were also wounded, including Mr Sykes, a brother-in-law of Peter Magee.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne has apologised. He said one officer has been suspended and a second “repositioned”.

On Monday Mr Sykes’s solicitor, Niall Murphy of KRW Law, said he was told by an officer who transported his client to Musgrave station that he was responding to a specified ‘serial’. A serial is the file under which all information linked to a case is recorded.

“We think the questions that need to be answered include who opened serial 950 and who tasked the police car to attend,” he said.

Mr Murphy said that when Mr Sykes arrived at the police station his hands were cuffed behind his back, a practice he says is usually reserved for violent detainees, and that he asked for the restraints to be removed.

He has called on police to make public all body-worn PSNI camera footage of the incident.

Mr Murphy said the commemoration was restricted to a small group.

“Friday’s event was organised by the families and was not a public event,” he said.

“Indeed the families issued a Facebook notice on Thursday asking people not to attend and to stay at home and that the memorial would be broadcast live on Facebook.”

He said relatives of the dead and Mr Sykes need assurances that they will not be prosecuted.

“I appeal for clarity from police that no family member who was in attendance is under suspicion or investigation and specifically Mr Sykes needs that direct clarity – that the investigation of his alleged disorderly behaviour is dropped and there is no further action taken,” he said.

“In my view the only disorderly behaviour was by the PSNI.”

Late on Monday night a PSNI spokeswoman said: “Whilst on routine patrol, officers from the South Belfast Local Policing Team came across a group of approximately 30 people gathered at the Sean Graham Bookmakers on the Ormeau Road at 2.30pm on Friday 5 February. They were a passing police patrol who on seeing the gathering, sought advice from their sergeant and were advised to engage with persons present and establish what was happening.

“We have reviewed body-worn video footage of the event and are confident that the officers’ assessment of numbers in attendance was accurate. The footage will also be reviewed in respect of the health protection regulations.

“It is now for the Office of the Police Ombudsman to determine the exact circumstances of the incident and it would not be appropriate for us to comment further.

“We will continue to fully cooperate with their investigation.”

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