17 February 2006

No probe for first victim

Daily Ireland

PSNI Historical Enquiries Team yet to investigate circumstances of Francis McCloskey’s 1969 death

By Connla Young
16/02/2006

A new investigation into the death of a man regarded as the first victim of the Northern conflict has not yet begun, it emerged yesterday.
Almost three weeks after the launch of the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team investigation of killings committed during the conflict, the case of the first fatality has yet to be examined.
Francis McCloskey died after being beaten by the RUC in Dungiven, Co Derry, in July 1969.
Although the 67-year-old is regarded as the first victim of the conflict, the circumstances surrounding his death have yet to be investigated.
Differences have emerged between the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman’s office in relation to how cases involving people killed by the RUC should be examined.
This means that the investigation into those deaths has been held up indefinitely.
At a press conference held last month, representatives of the Historical Enquiries Team claimed that the case files would be dealt with in chronological order.
The PSNI was later forced to clarify that the first 100 cases to be examined excluded those people who had died as result of RUC actions.
Neither the PSNI nor the Police Ombudsman was able to say when the investigation into RUC killings would begin.
Lucy McCloskey, a neighbour and close family friend of Francis McCloskey, urged the HET and Police Ombudsman’s office to sort out their differences.
“An acknowledgment or an apology would make a difference,” she said.
“It would make a difference not just to the people of Dungiven but to people across the North.
“It would form part of the healing process, and there has to be a healing process if we are going to live together.
“My memories of Francis are that of a lovely man, a willing neighbour and a great help to my family.
“His death was a very grave injustice. And that extended to his sister Rose Ellen. He was the only family she had and she lived for many years after him and had to carry that pain until she died. She was the forgotten victim in all this.”
A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman’s office said: “A number of issues are still to be resolved and, at this stage, we are still in discussions with the Northern Ireland Office and PSNI about the transfer.”
A spokesperson for the PSNI confirmed that details of 48 RUC victims had been handed to the Police Ombudsman.
“The process of referring those cases to PONI [Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland] is the subject of discussions between HET and PONI. PONI’s acceptance of the cases is a matter for them.
“The relationship between HET and PONI is one of ongoing liaison through a structured process, which includes a protocol and memorandum of understanding. This ensures that both agencies can progress their independent and important work in a complementary fashion, especially in any cases where a process of parallel review may be necessary.
“It is important to clarify that, when reference was made to HET dealing with 100 cases in chronological order, this was intended to mean the first 100 cases which fall appropriately to be dealt with by HET,” said the PSNI spokesperson.
An inquest in 1970 into Mr McCloskey’s death found that the bachelor had suffered a fractured skull and torn artery.
His name was not included on the RUC’s official list of people killed in the conflict until the list was amended in 1995.

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