Northern Ireland news

Ombudsman criticised over delay in Real IRA murder probe

Civilian construction worker, David Caldwell (51) was murdered in a Real IRA bomb attack in 2002.
Seamus McKinney

The Police Ombudsman's office has been unable to question a former British soldier who claimed a botched security operation led to the 2002 Real IRA murder of a Derry construction worker.

The Office was responding to criticism by DUP MP Gregory Campbell of its failure to conclude an investigation to the claims more than four years after they were made.

David Caldwell (51) was killed when he lifted a bomb hidden in a lunchbox at an unmanned Territorial Army base in Derry in 2002. A former UDR soldier, who left the regiment in 1985, Mr Caldwell was working as a civilian construction worker at the base on Derry's Limavady Road. No-one has ever been convicted of his murder.

In 2016, former British soldier, Sean Hartnett (not his real name) claimed a surveillance operation monitoring the car carrying the bomb failed to prevent the murder. In his book, 'Charlie One', Hartnett also claimed security forces knew the identity of the chief suspect.

The former soldier claimed the chief suspect's car was being tailed for days with electronic surveillance equipment. Two days before the murder, the car met another vehicle. When the cars parted, the surveillance officer opted to maintain a tail on the chief suspect's car. However, the killers appeared to have “wrong-footed” the officers and Mr Caldwell was killed.

Mr Caldwell's daughter, Gillian McFaul said the revelation that her father's life could have been saved shocked her family.

In an interview with The Irish News in 2016, Ms McFaul said: “But for the decision to stick with one car, my father could have still been alive. He was a good hard-working man, providing for his family.”

Hartnett's allegations were raised with the Police Ombudsman's office by Mr Campbell in 2016. Despite re-visiting the allegations many times, Mr Campbell said the investigation has not been completed.

The MP has now called on Secretary of State Brandon Lewis to find out what could be done to conclude the investigation. He has also asked Mr Lewis to look at ways of establishing “oversight” of the Ombudsman's office.

In a letter to Mr Lewis, Mr Campbell said: “The essence of the current position is that almost four and a half years after this ‘investigation' by the Police Ombudsman started (July 2017) with meetings, numerous letters, emails and phone calls, the investigation is still ongoing.

“Given the inordinate delay in this case, I write to ask that urgent action is taken regarding the oversight of the Police Ombudsman's Office to try and get some truth for the Caldwell family.”

A spokesman for Ombudsman, Marie Anderson said the complaint remained under investigation.

“As part of the investigation the office has sought to meet with the author of the book, Charlie One but has been unable to do so despite repeated attempts. We recognise that the time involved in the investigation of this matter is longer than anyone would like,” the spokesman said.

He added that the Office had sought to keep the complainant updated on the progress of the investigation.

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