12 May 2005

Irish American Information Service

NELSON INQUIRY LEADER ANNOUNCED
05/12/05 14:59 EST

The former police chief who led the British Police Complaints Authority investigation into Scotland Yard's handling of the Stephen Lawrence murder in 1993 is to examine the criminal investigation into the notorious murder of Northern Ireland human rights attorney Rosemary Nelson.

Mr Robert Ayling is to lead a team of former officers examining the criminal investigation into one of the North's most controversial deaths.

Mr Ayling, who retired as acting chief constable of Kent Constabulary last year, was appointed by the inquiry into Mrs Nelson's assassination.

The public tribunal is examining allegations that British security force members plotted with the loyalist paramilitaries who killed Mrs Nelson in a car bomb attack at her home in Lurgan, Co Armagh in 1999.

The inquiry, chaired by Sir Michael Morland, said in a statement tonight: "Mr Ayling is exceptionally well-qualified to undertake this role, in terms of his seniority and his experience of reviewing murder investigations and intelligence work."

He led the Police Complaints Authority investigation into Scotland Yard's handling of the Stephen Lawrence murder in 1993.

This formed a significant part of the evidence put before the Macpherson Public Inquiry.

Chairman Sir William Macpherson described Mr Ayling's investigation as "thorough, painstaking and fair".

He was awarded the Queen's Police Medal for his efforts in 2000.

Other members of the police team are being recruited by the Nelson Inquiry, which is expected to hear from witnesses next year.

Mrs Nelson, who had represented nationalist residents in Portadown's Garvaghy Road during the contentious Drumcree marching dispute with the Orange Order, was murdered by a booby trap bomb claimed by loyalists.

Prior to her death she claimed members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary had threatened her life.

Judge Cory investigated some of the North's most controversial killings, including those of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, Robert Hamill in Portadown in 1997, LVF leader Billy Wright in the Maze Prison in 1997 and Mrs Nelson in Lurgan in 1999.

A splinter loyalist terror organisation, the Red Hand Defenders, said it carried out the mercury-switch car bomb attack.

Human rights organisations have claimed police failed to properly investigate earlier death threats.

The inquiry was set up after former Canadian Judge Peter Cory found enough evidence of possible security force collusion to warrant further investigation. Despite a six-year inquiry that saw detectives take more than 5,000 statements, no one has been charged with the murder.


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