News Sport Comment Culture Business Money Life & style Travel Environment TV Blogs Data Mobile Offers Jobs Comment is free Rosemary Nelson – 10 years onThe Rosemary Nelson inquiry has decided security services did not collude – but they did share her killers’ culture Share7 Comments (54) Beatrix Campbell guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 25 May 2011 18.02 BST Article history The Northern Irish lawyer Rosemary Nelson died in 1999, after a bomb exploded under her car. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA It was 10 years ago this month that I revealed in the Guardian four suspects in the murder of Rosemary Nelson by car bomb in 1999, and how her death was foretold and profoundly desired by protestant paramilitaries who were intimate with police and security forces. The Northern Irish lawyer’s suspected killers include men who had been British agents and a serving soldier. The British government had been aware that she was in peril, but were irritated by the information rather than acting on it. The report published this week of the marathon £46m inquiry into allegations of collusion concluded that “the protective arm of the state was not put around” Nelson, that there was corporate failure and negligence by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and that the Northern Ireland Office failed to get involved “proactively”. It also decided that there was no act of collusion implicating the police or security services. But there didn’t need to be a conspiracy. The light the report throws on the intelligence and police services reveals that they shared the culture of her killers. The inquiry heard the former’s catalogue of malicious slurs against Nelson that can only be described as institutionalised sexism and sectarianism. All this, according to the report, had the “effect of legitimising her as a target”. Loyalist paramilitary groups were heavily penetrated by the police, security service and military intelligence, who reported that the loyalists were planning a big hit in the weeks before the bomb was placed under her car. Intelligence staff reported that munitions were being moved from Belfast to the area where Nelson lived in Lurgan. One officer told the inquiry that he believed this related to a drugs deal not a murder plot. Did he really? Despite the intense activity nothing was done to thwart the attack on Rosemary Nelson. So what were they actually doing? The inquiry is emphatic: “… the state failed to take reasonable and proportionate steps to safeguard [her] life”. Was there a culture so sinister and symbiotic that threats were known and ignored? Were the security files scripted in such a way that no court in the land could convict anyone of anything? Was impunity guaranteed by a division of labour between paramilitaries, the military, the security services? It was not until this inquiry that the existence of secret files on Nelson was admitted. “Intelligence” was being gathered on her since 1994. But I suspect that these files were only given to the inquiry to skew its questioning: to demonise her and to discredit the investigation into her murder headed by an English officer drafted into Northern Ireland, Colin Port. No one has been convicted of the murder, but the Port inquiry identified suspects and is vindicated in this report as “exhaustive, energetic and enterprising”. Port had been denied access to any secret service files. Every inquiry into the murder until this one was led to believe, implausibly, that there were none. The RUC chief constable at the time, Ronnie Flanagan, denied at the inquiry the existence of a security file on Nelson, just as he denied ever impugning her, and denied knowledge of his own officers’ attempts to bug Nelson. Now, the poison masquerading as intelligence that was aired day in, day out at the inquiry attracts thousands of words in the report. But, ultimately, the attempt to ruin Nelson’s reputation galvanised a different conclusion in the report: that enmity towards this woman was endemic. It provided protection to those who could not tolerate a woman being a brave diligent lawyer in a jurisdiction where, as she put it, “it is life-threatening to be a lawyer”. That jurisdiction is called the United Kingdom.