Northern Ireland news

Daughter of Belfast murder victim welcomes inquest findings but says 'it will not bring my Daddy back'

Finbar McGrillen
Allan Preston

The daughter of a Belfast murder victim has welcomed an inquest ruling stating that a police decision to release a violent offender contributed to his death.

Finbar McGrillen (42) was murdered at a Ravenhill flat alongside Caron Smyth (40) on December 13, 2013.

Ms Smyth’s ex-partner Sean Hegarty was released from police custody just days before.

He was later jailed for the double murder alongside Ciaran Nugent in 2015.

Mr McGrillen’s daughter Nicole welcomed the decision but said it would not bring her father back.

“Our family thank the coroner for his verdict. It is clear that if the police had carried out their job properly on December 9, 2013, then my Daddy might still be alive today,” she said.

“He did not deserve to have his life taken and future stolen in his own home while helping a friend. His memory and legacy will be served by the lessons that can now be learned by the police from the litany of suspect decisions, incompetence, and their failure to follow policy.

“Our family are pleased that the investigation has led to new policy recommendations being implemented by PSNI and hope this prevents other families suffering the avoidable loss we have experienced , but it will not bring my Daddy back”

In his ruling, coroner Joe McCrisken stated: “By releasing Hegarty on bail I consider that the actions of police, while not causing the deaths, contributed in more than a minimal way to the deaths of Ms Smyth and Mr McGrillen.”

He added: "I am satisfied also that in 2013 there were significant systemic issues in police actions and processes which contributed to a situation in which Sean Hegarty was allowed to walk the streets when he should have been brought before court so that his freedom could be reviewed.”

Lawyer for the McGrillen family, Nichola Harte, said the inquest findings had shown “a trail of police incompetence” which created the opportunity and contributed towards the circumstances of Sean Hegarty committing murder.

She added that the McGrillen family agreed with the coroner that police explanations for the failings had been “inadequate and unacceptable”.

“It is a great human tragedy that this double murder may have been prevented had the proper police protocols and procedures simply been followed.”

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