Northern Ireland

Sean Brown family urge Jon Boutcher to 'intervene immediately' after new information disclosed

Murdered GAA official Sean Brown (left) and his son Damian
Murdered GAA official Sean Brown (left) and his son Damian Murdered GAA official Sean Brown (left) and his son Damian

The family of murdered GAA official Sean Brown has called on interim chief constable Jon Boutcher to “intervene immediately” after it emerged that new information disclosed by the PSNI “raises issues in relation” to previous investigations into his killing.

Mr Brown (61) was attacked and beaten by an LVF gang as he locked the gates at Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC, Co Derry in May 1997.

He was put in the boot of his own car and taken to a country lane outside Randalstown, Co Antrim and shot six times.

Collusion is suspected and no-one has ever been charged in connection with the murder. 

Since his death, the Brown family have been present at almost 40 inquest-related hearings with the majority attended by Mr Brown's son Damian, who died in 2021 after a short illness.

Earlier this month it emerged 18 new files of PSNI sensitive information were recently made available for review.

The potentially relevant material arising from the review exercise amounts to “two files of material” an inquest hearing heard on Thursday.

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Joseph Aiken KC, counsel for the coroner, Patrick Kinney, told the court that the new information “raise issues in relation to the previous investigations”.

Mr Brown’s murder was investigated by police in 1997 and reviewed in 2004.

The Police Ombudsman’s Office also produced a report in the same year, while a separate probe was also carried out by the Historical Enquiries Team.

It is not known if any of these investigations had access to the newly disclosed information.

“I am also confirming publicly that the sensitive material to be considered in the PII (Public Interest Immunity) process, as is always the case, does raise important issues of national security that will have to be addressed in that PII process and about which you will have to each determinations,” Mr Aiken said.

“But I am also indicating that the material does raise issues in relation to the previous investigations that have been undertaken and in relation to the latter, the PSNI is fully aware of the issues that arise in respect of the previous investigations and is in the process of taking the appropriate steps that are necessary in that regard.”

Mr Aiken said it is “hoped that it will be possible to say more about this aspect by the time of the next review”.

In a statement the Brown family said they were “gravely concerned at the developments confirmed” in court.

“Whereas we are of course obliged to the diligence applied by the coroners staff, we are very concerned at the confirmation that there are serious concerns reposed in respect of the previous police investigations,” they said.

“We are concerned at the opaque representation made by police at court today, when this was raised.”

The family made a direct appeal to Mr Boutcher to "personally intervene and to review the two newly identified folders of recently discovered sensitive documentation and to confirm that all of this sensitive information was available to the original murder investigations, both in 1997 and also the review in 2004".

“We respectfully expect that the chief constable should intervene immediately, such is the wider public interest in the already found failings in this case,” they said.

Barrister for the Brown family, Stephen Toal raised the prospect of a public inquiry being held into Mr Brown’s murder.

Mr Toal said there was confidence in the coroner and his team.

“The family do, however, not repose the same level of faith in the police,” he said.

Solicitor Niall Murphy
Solicitor Niall Murphy Solicitor Niall Murphy

Family solicitor Niall Murphy, of KRW Law, said that within the new documents found “there is evidence relating to the botched investigation into the murder”.

“If that directly relevant material cannot be disclosed to the family as a result of the State claiming Public Interest Immunity, then the coroner will be prevented from conducting an Inquest that complies with the right to life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights,” he said.

A PSNI spokesman said: "We are supporting the Coroner’s Service during this Inquest and we will continue to do so.

"As this is the subject of ongoing Inquest proceedings, it would be inappropriate for the police service to comment further at this time."