21 December 2005

Suspect was released ‘to keep PUP in talks’

Daily Ireland

Victim’s father accuses Mo Mowlam of ‘political interference’ over death probe

Ciarán Barnes

A convicted loyalist killer questioned about the 1997 murder of a Belfast Protestant was released from custody on the orders of former direct-rule secretary Mo Mowlam, the victim’s campaigning father has claimed.
Raymond McCord Sr made the claim after a meeting to discuss state collusion with direct-rule minister Peter Hain at Stormont yesterday.
Mr McCord’s son was beaten to death in north Belfast in 1997 by an Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang that included two police informants.
He says Special Branch officers had prior knowledge he was to be killed, but failed to act in order to protect the identities of their informants.
In the weeks after the killing, senior north Belfast loyalist Angus Knell was taken to Gough barracks for questioning by murder squad detectives.
At the time Knell, who served a 15-year life sentence for the 1976 UVF murder of Catholic barman Eugene McDonagh, was a member of the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) talks team.
The negotiations would eventually lead to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998.
Mr McCord insists Mo Mowlam, who died earlier this year, ordered the release of Knell from questioning in order to prevent PUP members withdrawing from the talks.
After yesterday’s meeting with Peter Hain, he accused the direct-rule minister’s predecessor of “politically interfering” with the investigation into the murder of his son.
Mr McCord said: “Angus Knell was questioned about the murder of my son, but released because Mo Mowlam’s office was afraid the PUP would walk out of the multi-party talks.
“I’m not saying he was involved in Raymond’s death, but he shouldn’t have been released just to protect a political party. Mo Mowlam’s political interference hampered the investigation into my son’s murder.”
Although contacted, no one from the Northern Ireland Office was available to respond to the claims.
Mr McCord was one of four victims of paramilitary violence to meet Mr Hain yesterday. They were accompanied by an SDLP delegation led by party leader Mark Durkan.

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