Northern Ireland

Police Ombudsman to 'make enquiries' with PSNI over Sean Brown files

The family of Sean Brown (left) has called on interim PSNI chief constable Jon Boutcher to “intervene immediately” after it emerged that new information has been disclosed by the PSNI
The family of Sean Brown (left) has called on interim PSNI chief constable Jon Boutcher to “intervene immediately” after it emerged that new information has been disclosed by the PSNI The family of Sean Brown (left) has called on interim PSNI chief constable Jon Boutcher to “intervene immediately” after it emerged that new information has been disclosed by the PSNI

The Police Ombudsman has said it will be making enquiries with the PSNI after it emerged that newly disclosed information “raises issues in relation” to previous investigations into the murder of GAA official Sean Brown.

The police watchdog carried out an investigation into Mr Brown’s murder and produced a report in 2004.

A burnt out car at the scene where Sean Brown's body was found in 1997
A burnt out car at the scene where Sean Brown's body was found in 1997 A burnt out car at the scene where Sean Brown's body was found in 1997

The 61-year-old was attacked and beaten by an LVF gang as he locked the gates at Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC, Co Derry, in May 1997.

After being placed in the boot of his own car he was taken to a country lane outside Randalstown, Co Antrim, and shot six times.

Collusion is suspected and no-one has ever been charged.

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Mr Brown’s murder was investigated by police in 1997 and reviewed in 2004, while a separate probe was also carried out by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team.

Mr Brown’s family has called on interim PSNI chief constable Jon Boutcher to “intervene immediately” after it emerged that new information has been disclosed by the PSNI.

Earlier this month it emerged 18 new files of 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.

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

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman’s office said the PSNI will be contacted.

“We will be making enquiries with the police to establish whether this information was made available to the office prior to the publication of our report in January 2004,” he said.

In a statement the Brown 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".

The PSNI was asked if the recently revealed information was made available to previous investigations but did not directly respond.

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.”

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The Brown family’s solicitor Niall Murphy said if the relevant material is not now disclosed to the Brown family 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”.

“In those circumstances the coroner may be forced to follow the course that was adopted in the case of Alexander Litvinenko, where the coroner in that case requested the government to conduct a public inquiry into the death as the coronial processes were assessed as being incapable of delivering an effective investigation,” he said.

During this week’s inquest hearing Brown family barrister Stephen Toal told the court there was confidence in the coroner and his team.

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