27 February 2006

DNA link to killings is revealed

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
27 February 2006

Important DNA evidence has emerged in the case of two Ulster teenagers butchered by loyalists six years ago - prompting the father of one of the victims to call for an inquiry into why police did not act upon it before.

Paul McIlwaine, whose son David was murdered alongside Andrew Robb in February 2000, called for a new Police Ombudsman investigation last night after he was contacted by the detective currently in charge of the manhunt.

Mr McIlwaine said the PSNI detective revealed that a forensic review had turned up a DNA link between his son's body and a suspect in the case.

He called on the Police Ombudsman - who reviewed the case last year - to conduct a new inquiry to determine why the evidence had not been available for six years.

Mr McIlwaine said last year's Ombudsman review concluded that police have carried out "a thorough and professional investigation" but called on the Ombudsman "to reinvestigate this case in light of this information".

The PSNI refused to comment on Mr McIlwaine's allegations, saying the case is subjudice because two men are currently awaiting trial.

David McIlwaine (18), and 19-year-old Andrew Robb were murdered in the early hours of February 19, 2000 by loyalists believed to belong to the UVF.

The boys' bodies were found near Tandragee.

They had been stabbed repeatedly and their throats had been slashed.

Two years ago Paul McIlwaine raised queries about the available evidence in the Belfast Telegraph, citing police papers he had won access to after a long court battle.

He said those papers indicated that substantial forensic evidence, including DNA evidence, was available.

Mr McIlwaine has previously alleged that an informer for the security forces was among the killers.

A suspect was charged a short time after the murders but he was released months later because prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction.

Two years ago police told Mr McIlwaine that DNA material was being resubmitted for review, and new files were prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions. But the DPP concluded again that there was not enough evidence to secure a conviction.

"We never accepted that this was the case," he said. "On the limited evidence available to us we had a number of human rights experts independently examine the evidence. All felt that on the body of evidence that prosecutions should have been taken."

Last September the case featured in the BBC's Crimewatch programme and within weeks two men had been charged with the murders. They are currently in custody awaiting trial.

Mr McIlwaine said the developments came after a "a senior public figure" raised the family's case with Tony Blair.

"We recognise that this is progress but are equally conscious that justice and truth remain largely outstanding," he said.

"Today we are vindicated in our stand to date for justice for David and we will not rest until all those responsible are brought to justice.

"We are owed an explanation from the Chief Constable as to how this occurred and exactly what action is being taken."

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