Northern Ireland

Family of Gerard Lawlor 'disappointed' by Ombudsman report

Solicitor Niall Murphy (left) with John (centre) and Conor Lawlor, father and brother of Gerard. Picture by Rebecca Black/PA Wire
Solicitor Niall Murphy (left) with John (centre) and Conor Lawlor, father and brother of Gerard. Picture by Rebecca Black/PA Wire Solicitor Niall Murphy (left) with John (centre) and Conor Lawlor, father and brother of Gerard. Picture by Rebecca Black/PA Wire

The family of a Catholic teenager killed by loyalist paramilitaries in 2002 have spoken of their disappointment at the findings of a Police Ombudsman's report.

Gerard Lawlor's father said he feels let down, that more than 20 years on, he is still having to pursue accountability for his son's murder.

A report by Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson on Wednesday found significant failings in the PSNI investigation in 2002.

But she said she found no evidence of collusive behaviours and no evidence that the murder could have been prevented.

Mr Lawlor, a Catholic, was shot dead by loyalists shortly after midnight on July 22 2002.

He was murdered as he walked along the Floral Road in north Belfast on his way home after a night out at the Bellevue Arms on the Antrim Road. He was 19-years-old and had a partner and an 18-month-old son.

On the evening of July 21, there were five other gun attacks in north Belfast.

Read more:

  • Gerard Lawlor: 'Significant failings' in PSNI murder probe, ombudsman says
  • Gerard Lawlor: Ombudsman to make statement on 2002 murder

No-one has ever been charged with or prosecuted for the murder of Mr Lawlor.

Mr Lawlor's family maintain their belief that there was collusive behaviour in the police investigation which has not helped secured prosecutions.

John Lawlor said he was disappointed by the report.

"I think the years have toned down the anger a bit," he said.

"I still believe in a just and open society, police have to be held to account.

"I think they had a golden opportunity this morning to address that and they didn't do it.

"The core problem is still there, nobody is being held accountable.

"If you or I had done anything, we'd be crucified but there seems to be a part of this society that can walk about with impunity, and that's the bit that is hard to swallow at times.

"We're being let down, this should have been locked up years ago."

Police ombudsman for Northern Ireland Marie Anderson. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Police ombudsman for Northern Ireland Marie Anderson. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire Police ombudsman for Northern Ireland Marie Anderson. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

In the report by Ms Anderson, among the investigative failings found were: 

- A failure to document and develop a targeted covert/sensitive strategy with defined objectives for the purposes of the murder investigation

- A failure to conduct searches, arrests and interviews in a timely manner as a result of which potential forensic and other evidence may have been lost

- A failure to obtain all relevant telecommunications data

- A failure to ensure the continuation of a dedicated family liaison officer

- A failure to establish clear communication lines and record all contacts in accordance with family liaison guidance applicable at the time

- A failure to maintain and complete policy file/decisions

- A failure to maintain CCTV viewing logs

- A failure to link the murder with a series of sectarian attacks

- A failure to fully consider the dissemination of all relevant intelligence to the senior investigating officer

But Niall Murphy, solicitor for the Lawlor family, said the ombudsman's report is a "detailed analysis of a pathetic police investigation".

"The report correctly confirms a multitude of egregious failings," he said.

"Where we differ from the ombudsman's conclusive analysis, we consider the facts sustain ours, whereas her analysis is that collusive behaviours were not an impediment to the investigation.

"The family considered that the facts found, the failings found, the failure to arrest suspects, the failure to erect a vehicle checkpoint at the Whitewell Road/Antrim Road junction, that those facts actually sustain their sincerely held belief that collusive behaviour was an impediment to successful prosecutions in respect of those who murdered Gerard."

An inquest into Mr Lawlor's death was delayed while the ombudsman's investigation was ongoing.

Mr Murphy said he expects a preliminary hearing in the inquest will be held in the coming weeks or months.