Northern Ireland

Father of teenager murdered by UVF to obtain watchdog report into complaint about alleged police failings

David McIlwaine
David McIlwaine

The father of a teenager murdered by loyalist paramilitaries more than 20 years ago is to obtain a watchdog report into his complaint about alleged failures in the police investigation by next spring.

Paul McIlwaine ended High Court action against the Police Ombudsman following the undertaking to issue him with a "closure letter" no later than March 31, 2023.

His 18-year-old son, David, was beaten and stabbed to death along with Andrew Robb (19) in February 2000. Their bodies were found on an isolated country road near Tandragee, Co Armagh.

Members of the Mid-Ulster UVF are believed to have carried out the killings as part of a feud with the rival LVF.

Andrew Robb
Andrew Robb

Even though neither teenager was a member of any paramilitary organisation, Mr Robb had allegedly made derogatory remarks about UVF commander Richard Jameson after he was shot dead weeks earlier.

In 2009, Stephen Leslie Brown (41) was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison for the murders, described by the trial judge as ranking among the most gruesome committed in Northern Ireland.

Another member of the group identified as being involved in the killings,

Noel Dillon, committed suicide before the conclusion of criminal proceedings.

A third associate, Mark Burcombe, admitted a lesser charge and provided evidence against Brown.

Despite the convictions, persistent claims have been made that a Special Branch agent was involved in the murders and protected from prosecution.

In 2003 Mr McIlwaine lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman about alleged failings in the police investigation into his son's killing.

Earlier this year he commenced judicial review proceedings over alleged delays in dealing with his case.

The bereaved father's legal team, KRW Law, claimed that despite indications in 2005 and again in 2010 that a report was nearing completion, he has still not been informed of any outcome reached by the watchdog.

Mr McIlwaine sought a declaration that the ombudsman acted unlawfully and breached a statutory duty by failing to conclude investigations into the complaint within a reasonable time.

However, his application for a judicial review was withdrawn and dismissed by consent after a resolution was reached.

A High Court order states that it is based on "he Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland agreeing to issue a closure letter to the applicant, addressing the applicant's extant complaints no later than 31 March 2023".

Reacting to the development, Mr McIlwaine said: "While I appreciate the commitment made by the Police Ombudsman to complete the investigation within the next year, I am at a loss to understand why it has taken almost 20 years to complete this investigation."

He called on the Ombudsman, Marie Anderson, to explain the delay to the victims' relatives and clarify the time taken since they were allegedly informed nearly three years ago that the report was finalised.

His solicitor, Gary Duffy of KRW Law, welcomed the court-approved undertaking to provide the closure letter.