23 January 2006

North: Police reopen thousands of 'cold cases'

Irish Examiner

23/01/2006 - 7:57:27 AM

A police team will today begin examining more than 3,000 unsolved murders from the Troubles in the North.

The PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team will open the files on an initial batch of 100 unsolved cases.

The work, which will be carried out in chronological order, will focus on a 29-year period from April 1969 to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998.

As details of the investigators' remit were revealed on Friday, there was speculation their work could uncover the involvement of a number of republican and loyalist politicians in unsolved killings.

Dave Cox, who is heading the Historical Enquiries Team, said his officers would reopen the files on 3,268 cases during the Troubles and would try to achieve the best resolution for victims’ families.

A total of £24.3m (€35.3m) has been ring-fenced for the 84-member police unit, based at Sprucefield, near Lisburn, Co Antrim.

A further £7.3m (€10.6m) has been set aside for forensic scientists using modern techniques to help solve the cold cases.

Mr Cox, a former retired Metropolitan Police commander, said: “I do not for a moment underestimate the complexity of this challenge, or the potential emotional stress for relatives associated with revisiting these tragic events.

“That is why families will sit at the very heart of our investigations and that is why our primary objective will be to work with them to achieve some measure of resolution for them.”

Mr Cox said in some cases bereaved relatives may not necessarily want to pursue suspects through the courts.

Among requests received so far are for pictures of a murder scene and for the British Prime Minister of the time to appear in court.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain described the launch of the Historical Enquiries Team as an important step, but acknowledged their work would be both complex and sensitive.

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