24 March 2005

Irelandclick.com

Grieving brother: "How are cops going to investigate a 31-year-old murder? -
And I want to ask Hugh Orde that face-to-face".


A West Belfast man whose brother was murdered by loyalists in 1974 has called on the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde to detail how the police are planning to solve the murder which has been “lying cold for over 30 years”.

The request comes after the British government announced earlier this month that a squad of 100 investigators – the Serious Crime Review Team – is to be assigned to work on the unsolved cases of 1,800 victims of the Troubles in an initiative costing £32 million.

Gerry Armstrong's brother Paul was tortured before being shot dead by the UVF under the guise of the Protestant Action Force on November 8, 1974. He was just 18 years old.

At the time RUC detectives assured the Armstrong family that the killers would be brought to book for the horrific murder. However, 31 years on nobody has been caught or tried for the killing.

Now Gerry says he wants a “face-to-face” meeting with Chief Constable Hugh Orde to discuss the investigation into his brother’s murder.

“At the time my mother was offered £300 compensation for Paul’s 18 years on this earth. Of course, we refused. But now almost 31 years later this vast amount of money is going to be spent on 1,800-plus unsolved murders. I would like to know how,” said the Whiterock man.

Gerry went on to say that he finds it difficult to see how the PSNI are going to solve the murder now when the detectives in charge of the case at the time were incapable of doing so.
“When Paul was murdered, a team of detectives assured my late father, James, that no stone would be left unturned in the investigation. All these years later it seems quite obvious that not too many stones were overturned.”

Whilst it has been reported that new forensic techniques would be made available in the hope of achieving breakthroughs in the cases, Mr Armstrong is sceptical. “I would love to have hope in this but I honestly can't see how these detectives are going to be able to trace forensic evidence in the case of my brother. He was killed and left lying in a derelict bakery in Byron Street.

How they would begin to search for forensics here after 31 years is beyond me.

“Perhaps they still have Paul’s clothes, I know we never got them back. But how could they find forensic evidence now when the police force at the time obviously couldn’t, or didn’t want to?”

Mr Armstrong said he is apprehensive about the move and is hoping that it is not a smokescreen for the PSNI to look as though they are doing something about unsolved murders.

“I've heard Hugh Orde talking on the radio about this, I’ve seen him talking on the TV and I hope it isn't just talk. Thirty one years ago my family heard enough talking about how the killers would be caught, it didn't lead to anything and I hope this doesn't go the same way.”

Frustrated at the amount of time that has passed without any breakthrough, Mr Armstrong questioned the name of the new investigative team.

“They are calling themselves the Serious Crime Review Team but I don't see why my brother's murder wasn't serious enough to be tackled thoroughly at the time, yet now all of a sudden it is. It seems strange and myself and my family are not sure what way we should welcome the news.”

Gerry Armstrong said he accepted that there were many similar cases to Paul's over the years.

He says he just wants justice for his family who have since lost both parents – they died without ever really knowing what happened to their son.
The West Belfast man says that he would exhaust all options open to him. His first option is that face-to-face meeting with Hugh Orde.

“What we want are answers and while it would be nice to have American senators and people in high places to profile Paul's case, I really just want to speak to the Chief Constable because at the end of the day, he is the only one that can give the answers that my family have been waiting 31 years for.”


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