Northern Ireland

RUC commander who responded to Sean Graham massacre feels 'tarred', High Court hears

The High Court in Belfast
The High Court in Belfast

AN RUC commander who responded to the Sean Graham betting shop massacre feels "tarred" by the Police Ombudsman as having colluded with those responsible, the High Court heard on Wednesday.

The former senior officer's sense of grievance was disclosed at a challenge to findings made by Marie Anderson in a series of sectarian loyalist murders.

A group of retired policemen and women is seeking a judicial review of three separate reports into Troubles-era killings where the watchdog identified evidence of "collusive behaviour" within the RUC.

One case relates to a probe into multiple UDA attacks in the south Belfast area during the 1990s, including the Sean Graham atrocity.

Five Catholic civilians were shot dead and several others wounded when gunmen indiscriminately opened fire on customers inside the bookmakers on the Ormeau Road in February 1992.

The Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers Association claims the Ombudsman was legally prohibited from making findings which effectively branded them guilty of colluding in brutal murders without proper due process.

Counsel for the group, David McMillen KC, argued that all members of the force who served in the relevant areas at the times of the killings have been wrongly smeared.

As part of the challenge a statement was submitted by an RUC sub-divisional commander at the time of the Sean Graham attack.

"He describes that he was there immediately at the scene and gave urgent orders to his officers what they should do in response to this," Mr

McMillen said.

"He was never questioned at any stage by the Ombudsman in relation to this, but he feels that he has been tarred as someone who has colluded with terrorists in these murders."

Legal action is also being taken over a report into the police handling of

loyalist killings in the northwest region from 1989 to 1993.

A third challenge relates to findings in the case of four men wrongly

accused of murdering a British soldier in Derry.

Known as the Derry Four, the Ombudsman concluded that RUC officers had

unfairly obtained confessions from them for the killing of Lt Stephen Kirby

in the city in 1979. The four men later fled Northern Ireland until their

acquittal in 1998.

A Court of Appeal judgment in 2020 restricted the watchdog body's scope to

accuse former policemen and women of the criminal offence of collusion with


That outcome followed a previous challenge by retired senior officers

Raymond White and Ronald Hawthorne to the contents of former Ombudsman Dr

Michael Maguire's report into the 1994 Loughinisland atrocity.

Acknowledging her limitations, Mrs Anderson said she had identified conduct

within the RUC amounting to "collusive behaviours".

However, the Association alleges that the Ombudsman misunderstood her

permitted role and cannot use that term without establishing a malign


Amid claims that she "overstepped the mark", the group is seeking to have

the three public statements declared unlawful.

The hearing continues.