03 February 2006

North Belfast policing: 30 cops raid a game of poker. Nobody looks for Martin

Irelandclick

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The brother-in-law of a man who has been missing since New Year’s Day has spoken of the family’s disbelief at how the PSNI could spare over 30 officers to raid a poker club this week, but claim they lack resources to search for a missing man.

Martin Kelly (21) was last seen coming out of Pat’s Bar in Sailortown in the early hours of New Year’s Day and the family believe he fell into the water. Despite the family’s emotional appeals for the police to search the water, PSNI divers have only searched the water of the Docks for one hour. Paul Kelly said that has left the heartbroken family “frustrated” and “angry”.

“We have video evidence showing that he was last seen at the water’s edge – CCTV evidence – so we had a token gesture by the police two weeks ago when they went in for one hour and covered a strip of about seven metres out from the bank, but what we want now is a more extensive search of the lough,” said Paul Kelly.

“We are not only frustrated, we are angry because we believe that any missing person has the right to be found and to be honest we are actually disgusted, not with the individual police officers because those diving teams are amazing. We are just angry at the system.”

The weekend raid of the Cavendish Club in Corporation Street, which lies a short distance from where the family believe Martin went missing, has also caused a lot of hurt, with Paul Kelly questioning the actions of the PSNI in deploying so many officers to raid a poker club while making only a “token gesture” in the search for missing Martin.

“We were listening to the news in the other night and the police sent 30 officers in to close a poker club and yet we can’t get the resources to look for a body. Even when we fought with the police to go in they said there wasn’t enough evidence that Martin was in the water, even though the CCTV showed that the last place he was seen was at the water’s edge. Then they said they would actually need to see him jumping in before they could search. Then they told us that it was too dangerous to go in so they couldn’t search. We have had excuse after excuse, but with the pressure we put on them they eventually went in but they made a token gesture at going in.”

The Kelly family have secured the help of professional divers from throughout Ireland and say they hope to begin a search for Martin at the weekend. They have also hit out at the PSNI for refusing to allow their volunteers to help in searching the water.

“The Harbour Master in principle has no objection to the professional volunteer divers we have going in to work alongside the police as long as they are under the control of the police. However, the police will not accept any volunteers, professional or otherwise, to join them. This is for health and safety reasons, they say.”

This is another cause of frustration for the Kelly family.

“It’s wrong – we just feel it is totally wrong and that the system must be changed and the regulations must be changed to let these divers in. We have got 30 professional divers from the South of Ireland, from the Boyne diving club, the Dundalk diving club and the Mourne diving club – they are all professional divers who were involved in the search for Conor Bogues in Ardglass last week. They are the people who found the first body but even up there it was ridiculous because the police created a 100m diving zone that no one was allowed to search in and this was only lifted under public pressure.
“Sometimes people think that the word volunteer does not mean professional but these are professional divers who are underwater contractors and who have set up voluntary search and rescue services and the police will still not work with them. So this Saturday we are preparing ourselves for a dive by volunteers from the Republic of Ireland.”

Paul said he hoped there would not be a stand-off at the Docks this weekend.

“It is up to the PSNI. We hope that the PSNI won’t stop us and the Harbour Police won’t stop us going in the water but we will be there come what may.”

A spokesman for the PSNI said the search for a missing person could not be compared to a raid on an “illegal casino” but added that another water search was planned.

“Plans are being developed at the moment to commence a search at Belfast Harbour at the start of the week and this will be confirmed closer to the time. It is anticipated that an area of 300 metres on either side of the barrier at which CCTV showed a figure will be searched. The family will be kept informed at all times.”

Journalist:: Staff Journalist

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