Northern Ireland

Police Ombudsman: Report uncovers collusive behaviours in loyalist killings

Relatives of loyalist victims met Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson on the release of the Operation Achille report yesterday. Picture Mal McCann.
Relatives of loyalist victims met Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson on the release of the Operation Achille report yesterday. Picture Mal McCann.

A DAMNING Police Ombudsman report has found evidence of collusive behaviours in a series of murders carried out by loyalist paramilitaries in south Belfast in the 1990s.

Campaigning relatives of those killed last night they said they will need time to process the findings of the report which they said vindicated their view of collusion in the attacks.

Ombudsman Marie Anderson said she was "deeply concerned" by the scale and scope of the police failings revealed in her latest investigation.

The Operation Achille report, given to relatives yesterday, examined 11 murders and one attempted murder between 1990 - 1998.

The attacks, which included the killing of five people at the Sean Graham bookmakers in 1992, have been attributed to the UDA/UFF.

A 12th murder, although investigated, was not included in yesterday's report due to ongoing legal action.

Relatives of the victims shot and killed in betweeen 1990-1998 gather to meet the Police Ombudsman on the release of the report into the murders Picture Mal McCann.
Relatives of the victims shot and killed in betweeen 1990-1998 gather to meet the Police Ombudsman on the release of the report into the murders Picture Mal McCann.

Among her findings Ms Anderson highlighted failure to warn two men that their lives were under threat.

- Confirmed the deliberate destruction of files relating to the attack at Sean Graham bookmakers.

- The failure of RUC Special Branch to pass on information to investigators.

- Unjustifiable and continued use by Special Branch of informants involved in serious criminality, including murder and the passive "turning a blind eye" to such activities

Ms Anderson revealed that officials from her office have identified eight UDA/UFF members linked through intelligence to the murders and attempted murders of 27 people

Relatives of the victims shot and killed in betweeen 1990-1998 gather to meet the Police Ombudsman on the release of the report into the murders Picture Mal McCann.
Relatives of the victims shot and killed in betweeen 1990-1998 gather to meet the Police Ombudsman on the release of the report into the murders Picture Mal McCann.

Several of these are referred to in yesterday's report.

In a shocking revelation Ms Anderson confirms all eight were police informers "either at the time, or subsequent to, these attacks".

Sean Grahams Bookmakers survivor Mark Sykes, who was shot several times, said he was shocked by the revelation.

“This is a long report, which will take families days to process and come to terms with," he said.

"Immediately families are shocked to read in the report that eight British state agents were involved in 27 murders and attempted murders," he said.

"These agents were clearly identified as being involved in multiple murders at the earliest stages of police murder investigations.

Jim Clinton whose wife was murdered by the UDA in 1994  with his daughters Siobhan and Roseann on thier way to see the Police Ombudsman as the report into the murders in south Belfast 1990-1998 is released Picture Mal McCann.
Jim Clinton whose wife was murdered by the UDA in 1994 with his daughters Siobhan and Roseann on thier way to see the Police Ombudsman as the report into the murders in south Belfast 1990-1998 is released Picture Mal McCann.

"They were clearly a protected species as information about their involvement in killings was not shared with investigating officers and information regarding their involvement was routinely destroyed."

Paul Conlon, whose taxi driver father Harry Conlon was killed in 1991, said “this report contains devastating details regarding the killing of our father".

"My elderly mother sat and listened to the Police Ombudsman describe how a suspect in the murder of my father but incredibly was never arrested, we believe to be a RUC agent, was wearing a coat which contained gun residue and blood which was examined in relation to the killing of Aidan Wallace, but was not examined against the blood of my father," he said.

"This is just one startling and devastating finding.”

Another victim, Theresa Clinton, was shot dead at her home in the Lower Ormeau area in April 1994 after a gun attack by loyalists.

The home was targeted because her husband Jim had previously stood as a Sinn Féin candidate.

Operation Achille has revealed that threats were never passed on to the Clintons.

Last night Siobhán Clinton said in reading this report it was clear "that there were systemic and deliberate practices of collusion in the killing of my mother".

"There were multiple threats to my father and our family home which were not passed on to my father," she said.

"My mother was murdered with an RUC weapon, a weapon used in other murders.

"The Police Ombudsman said a senior RUC officer decided not to warn my father and that had he been warned she finds that my mother’s murder could have been prevented.”

Mark Thompson from Relatives for Justice said: "This report cannot and must not be viewed in isolation.

"There are clear thematic links which point to how RUC Special Branch operated in all of the collusion reports released by the Police Ombudsman to date."

Solicitor Niall Murphy from KRW Law said: "This damning report provides yet more irrefutable evidence of the state’s overarching policy of collusion".

In a statement Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said “areas of the report make uncomfortable reading and I want to offer my sincere apologies to the families of those killed and injured for the failings identified in this report".

"We will never seek to excuse bad policing and where criticism is reasonably made the Police Service will acknowledge and address that," he said.