‘It’s all very well for [the journalist and officer] giving information about this, but it’s information that would have to be investigated by the Police Ombudsman in the normal way – Coroner John Leckey.
THE Police Ombudsman should probe fresh claims that intelligence officers from C3 covertly approached a dissident republican in custody hours before he apparntley killed himself, North of Ireland’s senior coroner has said.
John Leckey stressed the need for the watchdog to look into a new allegation leveled in court yesterday by a lawyer represting the family of John Brady, 40, who had apparently hanged himself inside Strand Road RUC/PSNI police station in Derry five years ago. In a separate devolopment, solicitor Peter Corrigan also claimed that Brady’s relations have been subject to numerous death threats since his apparent suicide in October 2009, making them fearful of attending the scheduled inquest into his death/murder in Belfast next year. During a preliminary hearing in Belfast Coroners Court, Mr Corrigan said a journalist had informed his legal team that a “police source” had claimed that two officers from the PSNI’s C3 unit – formerly known as Special Branch – had visited Brady on three separate occaisions n the custody suite.
“That’s obviously a major development,” the lawyer told the coroner. But Mr Corrigan said he would not name the journalist in court and conceded he did not know the name of the police source. Mr Leckey made clear to the lawyer the only way the Police Ombudsman would be able to investigate his claim was if the organisation had the names of the individuals and could interveiw them. “I don’t attach any weight to what I have been told in the absence of the journalist being named and the police officer being named,” he said. “We have a journalist who refuses to be named and a police officer, who someone knows who this is and where they live, but I’m not told any of this information and I’m supposed to accept this as corrboration?” He added: “It’s all very well for them giving information about this, but it’s information that would have to be investigated by the Police Ombudsman in the normal way. “And they can’t put up a cloak of anonymity to prevent an investigation. They have to be willing to engage and be interviewed.” Mr Brady, who was jailed during the Troubles for murdering a policeman, had been arrested in Strabane while on parole on suspicion of assault. Rumours of C3 involvement have led to speculation the republican may have been subjected to a bid to turn him into an informer before he apparently hanged himself in a consultation room. But the Police Ombudsman has already examined the claims that Brady was approached and has ruled it out. It found that two intelligence officers did attempt to gain access to him but were turned away by custody staff. Lawyer for the Ombusman’s Office Seamus McIlroy on Friday told Mr Leckey that an examination of CCTV footage for the entirety of Brady’s time in custody showed that C3 officers did not gain access to him. He said the two officers had also denied speaking to him when interviewed by Ombudsman investigators. Mr McIlroy said the ombudsman would “robustly and vigorously” investigate any new claims but stressed that names would be required. “We do need something to go on to be able to investigate properly what has been alleged,” he said. Mr McIlroy added: “If there’s any information as to who they are we’ll definitely speak to them.” Mr Corrigan indicated that the name of the journalist could potentially be passed to the ombudsman and coroner on a confidntial basis. Mr Leckey said that it was imperative that Mr Corrigan engaged with the Ombudsman as quickly as possible as the inquest was scheduled to commence on February 16. “The inquest is proceeding as arranged and if information is forthcoming to the Police Ombudsman, we are not quite in the middle of October, so there should be plenty of time for the Police Ombusman to interview those two individuals,” he said. The coroner also said he was “amazed” the claim was only being heard by the court now after Mr Corrigan revealed that the journalist first made the allegation the day after Brady died. He told Mr Corrigan: “Your engagement with the Police Ombudsman should start immediately.”
With many thanks to: David Young, The Irish News, for the origional story.