Northern Ireland news

Family of murdered north Belfast woman Rosaleen O'Kane launch legal proceedings against three state agencies

Rosaleen O'Kane was found dead in her north Belfast flat in September 1976

THE family of a north Belfast woman murdered in her home more than 45 years ago have launched three-pronged legal proceedings over the authorities' alleged failure to investigate the killing.

Rosaleen O'Kane was found dead in her flat at Cliftonpark Avenue in September 1976. The 33-year-old single woman's body had been stripped naked, set alight and she had also sustained a fracture to her skull. A second fire had been set in another area of the flat.

Almost 46 years after the killing, her sister Kathleen Graham has lodged judicial review proceedings against the chief constable of the PSNI, the attorney general for Northern Ireland, and the Police Ombudsman.

The original post-mortem examination in 1976 was unable to determine the exact cause of death because the pathologist could not conclude whether the fracture to her skull had been inflicted before she died or was a consequence of the fire. The same report confirmed that there was no smoke inhalation in Ms O'Kane's lungs. Blood and other forensic samples taken during the post-mortem which might have assisted in determining the cause of death, and assisted police in their investigation were destroyed the next day in a fire in the Northern Ireland Forensic Laboratory on September 18 1976.

In 2002, relatives of Ms O'Kane met senior PSNI officers to request that the murder investigation into their sister's death be re-opened. The family has always believed that Rosaleen's murder was sectarian, a motive police have not rule out.

In 2004, the case was referred to the Serious Crime Review Team (SCRT), which seven years later recommended further lines of enquiry. However, more than a decade on, the family understand that those recommendations have still not been carried out.

Lawyers for the family also lodged two requests with the attorney general for a fresh inquest that have both been refused.

The family has now lodged a judicial review application to the High Court in Belfast challenging the failure of all three state agencies to investigate the murder.

Kathleen Graham said: “We would like the truth. Even one bit of truth. Rosaleen was our sister, but she was like our mother. I still miss her every day.”

Patricia Coyle of solicitors Harte Coyle Collins said there had never been effective investigation into Ms O'Kane's.

"It is extremely distressing for the family," she said.

"Each of the relevant public authorities has the power to secure an effective investigation."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access