A failure by police to fully disclose documents in a major legal action over alleged collusion with loyalist terrorists behind the Miami Showband massacre is “appalling”, a High Court judge has said.
Expressing anger at the ongoing delay in providing all material to lawyers representing survivors and relatives of murdered group members, Mr Justice Maguire warned he may consider striking out the PSNI’s defence to the claim.
He said: “This is an appalling situation where this case has been going on since 2012, and we are at stage in 2020 where the obligation of discovery on the police service has not been complied with.
“The court seems to be getting the runaround. It makes me angry (and) shows so much disrespect to the court.”
Victims of the atrocity are suing the Ministry of Defence and PSNI over the suspected level of collaboration between serving soldiers and the paramilitary killers.
Three members of the popular band were taken from their tour bus and shot dead on a country road after a gig in Banbridge, County Down in July 1975.
They were travelling home to Dublin when a fake army patrol made up of UDR soldiers and UVF members stopped them at a bogus checkpoint outside Newry.
Band members were made to line up at the side of the road while attempts were made to hide a bomb on the bus.
The device exploded prematurely, killing some of the would-be bombers.
Gunmen then opened fire on the band, murdering lead singer Fran O’Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpeter Brian McCoy.
Two other band members, Des McAlea and Stephen Travers, were also injured but survived the atrocity.
In 2011 a report by the Historical Enquiries Team raised collusion concerns around the involvement of an RUC Special Branch agent.
It found that UVF boss Robin Jackson, a one-time UDR member who died in 1998, had been linked to one of the murder weapons by fingerprints.
Jackson claimed in police interviews he had been tipped off by a senior RUC officer to lie low after the killings.
He went on trial charged with possession of a silencer attached to a pistol used in the murders but was subsequently acquitted.
Two serving members of the UDR were, however, eventually convicted for their part in the attack.
Based on documents uncovered by campaign groups, writs have been issued against both the MoD and chief constable.
Damages are being sought for assault, trespass, conspiracy to injure, negligence and misfeasance in public office.
Military chiefs allegedly knew about but failed to stop loyalists infiltrating the UDR’s ranks, according to the victims’ case.
They also claim police are liable for vetting carried out on applications to join the army regiment and the use of agents such as Jackson.
Army files have now been disclosed to the plaintiffs as part of the discovery process.
Although some of the documents have been redacted based on issues of national security, the material reportedly contains a link to undercover British soldier Robert Nairac
Captain Nairac was abducted and killed by the IRA in 1977 and his body has never been found.
His alleged connection to the case was not mentioned at a hearing yesterday dealing with the level of discovery.
Instead, counsel for the victims and bereaved contended that the PSNI’s obligations remain incomplete.
Granting a two-week adjournment, Mr Justice Maguire said: “I think the time is coming in this case where the court’s patience is (running out).”
With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story
The solicitor was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in front of his family in the north of the city in 1989 in collusion withBritish state security forces.
The Belfast widow of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane said she has been left “frustrated and disappointed” after her latest meeting with the British Government was postponed.
He was shot by loyalist paramilitaries in front of his family in the north of the city in 1989 in collusion with state security forces.
His wife Geraldine planned to meet Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith on Friday but it was postponed due to his diary commitments, an official letter said.
My family and I remain committed to achieving our goal of an independent public inquiry into all of the circumstances surrounding Pat’s murder.
Mrs Finucane said: “I am frustrated and disappointed that the British Government has, once again, postponed a meeting with me and my family to discuss the implementation of the UK Supreme Court decision from February 2019.
“The latest delay leads me to the conclusion that this administration will be no different than previous ones, when it comes to honouring its responsibilities concerning British State involvement in the murder of my husband.”
In February, the Supreme Court ruled that investigations into the fatal shooting of the Belfast solicitor have not been effective and fell short of international human rights standards.
Mrs Finucane has challenged former prime minister David Cameron’s decision not to hold a public inquiry.
A separate review commissioned by Mr Cameron declared his killers colluded with the state in a “shocking” fashion.
Mrs Finucane said: “My family and I remain committed to achieving our goal of an independent public inquiry into all of the circumstances surrounding Pat’s murder.
“We will not let this latest disappointment deter us unduly.”
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Michael McHugh, PA for original story
MoD documents publicly name British soldier for first time
Previously unseen British army intelligence documents have linked undercover British SAS soldier Robert Nairac to the Miami Showband Massacre.
Three members of the band, including lead singer Fran O’Toole, were murdered when loyalist killers stopped their minibus at a bogus UDR checkpoint near Banbridge in Co Down in July 1975. The attack was carried out by members of the Glenanne Gang, which included RUC, UDR and UVF personal. Two loyalists also died when the bomb they were planting exploded prematurely. British army documents have now linked SAS-trained officer Nairac to the atrocity.
While he has previously been connected to loyalist murders this is believed to be the first time MoD documents naming him have been made public. Captain Robert Nairac was abducted and murdered by the PIRA in 1977 and his body has never been found. He is one of three people belonging to the group known as The Disappeared whose remains have yet to be located. The Ministry of Defence papers were recently disclosed to solicitor Michael Flanagan who represents Mr O’Toole’s widow Valerie Anderson. She is taking legal action against the MoD and the RUC/PSNI chief constable.
It is understood the redacted documents contain suggestions that Captain Nairac obtained equipment and uniforms for the killers. The file also claims that the British SAS soldier was responsible for the planning and execution of the attack. Survivors, including justice campaigner Stephen Travers, have previously insisted a member of the killer gang spoke with an English accent. In his 2015 book about the life of Captain Nairac, Alistair Kerr claimed the British soldier went on leave to Scotland the same day as the Miami Showband massacre.
Mr Travers last night said that when he learned of the document it was a “huge disappointment to me that I was right”. “It was the British army involved in the planning and execution,” he said. It is believed many of the documents provided to Mr Flanagan have been redacted and that public interest immunity certificates have also been issued. A hearing linked to the case is due to be heard in Belfast this morning. Mr Flanagan last night said collusion was a feature.
“This is a case where collusion is self-evident and in those circumstances it is of concern that the defendants are seeking to rely so heavily on public immunity,” he said. “We feel the state should be as open as possible in a case of this nature and will be asking the court to look at this issue.”
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Connla Young for the original story
Former Labour MP Emma Dent Coad tells the Star that the PM has driven the ‘final nail in the coffin’ of justice
BORIS JOHNSON has driven the “final nail in the coffin” of justice for the victims of Grenfell by appointing an engineer to the fire inquiry who has links to the firm which made the tower’s cladding, former Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad told the Star today.
Mr Johnson picked Benita Mehra last month to assist Sir Martin Moore-Bick, who is leading the inquiry into the June 2017 disaster that killed 72 people.
Ms Mehra previously ran the Women’s Engineering Society, which received a £71,000 grant from the charitable arm of Arconic, the US-based maker of the aluminium composite cladding that fuelled the Grenfell fire.
She will be one of two experts helping Mr Moore-Bick with at least 18 months of hearings into the events leading up to the fire.
Ms Dent Coad, who lost her seat last month, said people affected by the fire have now abandoned all hope that the second phase of the inquiry will bring any justice.
“They ripped the firefighters to shreds in the first phase and now what I hear from people in the community is that this is proof that it is — as we feared — an Establishment stitch-up,” she said.
“People are in shock but will be regrouping and planning over the next few days. We were told over and over again that we should trust the process — but we can’t.
“The appointment is the last thing we want to hear. The whole idea of the second phase has been so invested in and for this to come about is horrific.”
Grenfell United vice-chair Karim Mussilhy, who lost his uncle in the fire, is calling for Ms Mehra to stand down before hearings restart on January 27. He described the appointment as a “disgrace.”
A spokesperson for the inquiry said it was confident that Ms Mehra’s former role would “not affect her impartiality.”
With many thanks to the: Morning Star for the original story
Police investigating the 1974 Guildford pub bombings have “seized” archives and may destroy some of them, a memo seen by the BBC has claimed.
The records at Surrey History Centre were gathered by retired officers and deposited by ex-Ch Supt Bob Bartlett.
Correspondence said one file, dated 1967-74, covering the year of the bombs, had information on wanted people but “will be destroyed” on retention.
Surrey Police said no papers had been destroyed and files would be audited.
Five people were killed and 65 injured in the IRA attacks and 11 people were wrongly convicted and spent up to 15 years in jail.
For decades, questions have been asked about the police investigation after no-one else was prosecuted.
Lawyers representing the family of victim Ann Hamilton and survivor Yvonne Tagg in the resumed Guildford pub bombings inquest said if files were being retained, closed or marked for destruction, it raised “serious concerns”.
Correspondence given to the BBC said police “entered the Surrey History Centre to recover any Guildford bombings related material because there is to be an inquest”.
It said they “seized” files on 14 November covering both the terror attacks and other “diverse material” including retirement certificates, photographs of the Operations Room and pocketbooks, along with information on a rabies alert and disruption in the countryside, without consulting Mr Bartlett, who runs the Surrey Constabulary History website.
It also claimed “archivists felt compelled to comply with police demands” and went on to criticise the move as “over-interpreting the law” and “over-zealous”.
The papers included an appendix setting out reasons given by Surrey Police for taking the documents, citing General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Data Protection Act 2018, Management of Police Information (MoPI), the Public Records Act, the Freedom of Information Act and other guidance.
Files listed as withdrawn included a major incident handbook from the 1970s; photographs of the interiors and exteriors of the bombed pubs; and a file dated 1973-75 covering actions in dealing with incendiary devices, which were closed and may now apparently be retained for 100 years.
An open file containing four photographs of the pub bombing scene by war photographer and Fleet Street journalist Terry Fincher was also listed as retained while the force checked whether he was working for them.
Mr Fincher’s daughter, Jayne Barlow, who holds his work in a separate archive, has said he was not working for the police.
‘Secrecy and evasion’
Christopher Stanley, from KRW Law, said: “If files in the public domain which could have any relevance or significance to the pub bombings in Guildford, Woolwich and Birmingham – or the IRA bombing campaign in England between 1973 and 1975 generally – are being retained, closed or marked for destruction by the Surrey Police or other agency, then this is cause for serious concern.
“These files need to be independently assessed for their relevance, if any, to the resumed inquest and other inquiries and investigations which are ongoing or in the future – for example the current live investigation into the Birmingham pub bombings being undertaken by the West Midlands Police.”
He said material that might have evidential value to answering questions about the Northern Ireland conflict was too often being destroyed, retained or closed by agencies of the state.
“The practice represents a corporate culture of secrecy and evasion which robs the relatives of victims of the conflict and survivors of the possibility of truth and reconciliation,” he said.
This month it also emerged the Home Office had taken more than 700 files out of The National Archives in a move that campaigners said was “a disgrace”.
The resumed inquest has also heard Surrey Police destroyed five boxes of police files “in error”.
Retired lawyer Alastair Logan, who represented the wrongly-jailed Guildford Four, said police had in effect seized private property and the basis they claimed for seizing the files needed to be legally examined.
He said the file covering 1967-74 that was apparently earmarked for destruction could be relevant to the inquest and to the history of the matter of the Guildford bombings, adding: “There appears to be no public oversight on what is happening.”
“That file could point to people other than the Guildford Four as potential culprits – we don’t know,” he said.
“What is contentious is if it were to indicate that advance knowledge could have prevented the offences – that would be extremely important to the coroner.”
On that particular file, the full reason for withdrawal stated in the memo was: “Breach of GDPR and unknown if any are MoPI 1. This information will be destroyed under MoPi guideline when it has reached retention.”
Pub bomb inquest family ‘never getting justice’
Guildford Four man refused inquest role
What we know about the Guildford pub bombings
The total number of files seized is not known but, of those listed as withdrawn, nine were requested by the BBC on 26 September when it was established many of Mr Bartlett’s files held at the archives were closed.
That request went to the Surrey History Centre but a revised request has since been submitted to Surrey Police to see day book entries from 1974.
The BBC has been seeking to view first-hand records of police activity on the night of the bombings after hearing claims of a discrepancy in timings by Charles King, whose son Rob, a reporter who went on to work for national newspapers, was on the scene and insisted the first explosion happened 20 minutes earlier than the time given.
A statement issued by the force said: “Surrey Police fully recognises the importance of recording information for historical value and works closely with the Surrey History Centre to encourage and support the archiving of material where it is lawful.”
It said it came to light last summer that alongside material deposited by Surrey Police through an agreed process, other material gathered by retired officers had been submitted directly by a former officer.
The statement said: “Material generated in the course of employment with Surrey Police should be submitted to the information management team who will assess and identify whether it is suitable for archiving.
“Submission of material directly to an archive does not satisfy our legal obligations. As the owner of this material and a data controller, Surrey Police is subject to strict guidelines.”
Surrey Police met archivists last September to advise them the collection would need to be removed and audited and the centre agreed the removal “would be done by appointment” on 14 November, it said.
“None of the material has been destroyed,” the statement added. “It will be audited against the relevant legal guidelines and, where possible, returned to the history centre.”
It said any material that was still within retention must remain within the possession of Surrey Police.
Surrey County Council, which runs Surrey History Centre, said it was not its place to comment.
With many thanks to: BBC News England (Surrey) and Tanya Gupta for the original story
On Monday December 30th 2019 seen the release of hundreds of previously secret British government files in Belfast and Dublin from 1996. From confidential discussions about the Drumcree crisis’s devastating impact to the ‘propaganda’ war and the private views of politicians, they shed light on key events during the Troubles and the fragile years of the emerging Peace Process. Reports by political historian Dr Éamon Phonenix and the Press Association
A LIST of dozens of people murdered by the IRA after it accused them of “informing” to the state during the Troubles has been published.
One aged 21 years from Derry and his eyes taped closed and his hands tied behind his back. Many were dumped near the border with gunshot wounds to the head. The government named the dead as part of a draft historical argument for keeping intelligence evidence secret in the face of court proceedings. The details form part of archives disclosed by the Public Records Office of NI (Proni). A draft official submission said: “The Provisional IRA themselves have made it clear on a number that where they believe people within the organisation to be agents or informers they can expect no mercy.
“This usually means torture, followed by a forced confession and murder. “The corpse will then be found in a ditch, often many miles from the point of their abduction.” A sample list of alleged informers murdered by the Provisional IRA from 1978 until before the 1994 ceasefire was published in official files. In June of 1978 Daniel McErlean, aged 25, from Rasharkin in Co Antrim was found dead. His body was discovered at the border near the Co Armagh village of Jonesborough. In July 1979 Michael Kearney (20) from Belfast was found dead on the Concession Road in Clones. In February 1981 Patrick Trainer (28) pictured below, from Belfast was shot dead at Upton Cottages in Belfast.
The following year John Torbitt (28) was shot dead at his Lenadoon home in the west of the city. Two months later Seamus Morgan (24) from Dungannon in Co Tyrone was found dead in the south Armagh village of Forkhill. Patrick Scott from Twinbrook was found shot dead in an entry in west Belfast in 1982. Damian McCroy (20) was shot in the head in the Brumrallagh Estate in Strabane in Co Tyrone. Patrick Murray (30) was shot dead and his body found in an entry in West Belfast in 1986, in the shadow of Clonard monastery. Eamon Maguire (33) was from Finglas in Dublin and he was accused by republicans of being a Gardaí informer. His body was found on the main Dundalk to Castleblaney Road a quarter of a mile north of the border.
John McAnulty (48) from Warrenpoint in Co Down, was abducted in the summer of 1989 from a pub in Armagh. His body was recovered in Crossmaglen in south Armagh. Rory Finnis (21) from Derry was found dead in June 1991. His hands had been tied behind his back and his eyes taped closed at Central Drive in the city’s Creggan estate. He was shot in the head.
Thomas Oliver (33) from Riverstown in Dundalk was discovered in July 1991, days after his birthday. His body was found in a field in Belleeks, a village in Co Armagh. In the same area, on the Mountain Road, John Dignam (32) was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head on the first day of July, 1992. He was from Portadown in Co Armagh. Two other alleged informers from Portadown were found dead on the same day. Gregory Burns was aged 33. His remains were recovered on the Cullaville Road, close to the border. He was shot in the head.
Aiden Starrs was aged 29. His body was found on the Dundalk Road in Newtownhamilton, again shot in the head. Two more, Robin Hill (22) from Coalisland in Co Tyrone and John Holmes (35) from Derry were found dead in similar circumstances before the end of 1992. In June 1993 the remains of Joseph Mulhern, pictured below, were discovered at Ballymongan in Castlederg in Co Tyrone six days before his 24th birthday. He was from Belfast.
The security forces do not normally confirm whether or not a person was an informer. The official record said: “In a number of cases, persons murdered by the IRA have not been informers. “Furthermore, in other cases alleged informers have had to leave the North of Ireland at a moment’s notice and start a new life elsewhere, knowing that they can never return to their homes without facing the prospect of torture and murder, possibly having to cut off their links with close family members in order to avoid the risk of their new location being revealed.”
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Michael McHugh for the original story