12 February 2006

PSNI accused of failing to protect Devlin

Sunday Times

Liam Clarke
The Sunday Times
February 12, 2006

THE family of Gerard Devlin, who was stabbed to death in west Belfast, has accused the PSNI of failing to act when he was attacked in the past.

They have asked the police ombudsman and the chief constable to investigate whether the alleged inaction was to protect a police informer.

Devlin was stabbed to death on February 3 in Ballymurphy in front of at least 10 witnesses. Four members of the extended Notarantonio family have been charged with his murder.

After a week of violence, police have warned Devlin family members of threats to their lives. A campaign of intimidation has also been launched against the Notarantonios.

At midnight on Friday, a house belonging to Charlotte Burns, née Notarantonio, in Divismore Park was attacked by a petrol bomb, but she escaped injury. Burns claims she recognised several local IRA men, including a relative of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, among the attackers.

“We are very scared and we believe the IRA are encouraging this violence to destroy our family,” said Victor Notarantonio, a family spokesman. “The police told us we were in danger. We will have to leave, there is no doubt. At least 20 people will have to leave.”

Devlin’s relatives have condemned the violence, but blame years of police inaction. In a letter to Huge Orde, the chief constable, they state they are “a law-abiding family. We believe in the primacy of the police, but we feel let down by your force.” They ask whether any of the attackers were being protected by Special Branch.

Richard O’Rawe, a former republican prisoner who is married to Devlin’s aunt, Bernadette, believes the murder is a test case for the PSNI in west Belfast. “It goes against the grain for people in areas like this to talk to the police, but members of our family, including Gerard Devlin, were prepared to stick out their necks and make statements, naming names,” he said.

“The fact that no proper action was taken is a blow.”

Statements made to the police by Devlin and other witnesses naming those who tried to kill him in 2003 and 2005 were not included in a file sent to the Public Prosecution Service. In the May 2003 incident, Devlin had his throat cut and required 32 stitches. In 2005, his car was rammed and he was attacked with a pitchfork and spade before being threatened with a gun.

In a letter to Orde, Bernadette O’Rawe asks if the house to which the gunman fled after threatening Devlin is “on a list of houses that cannot be searched without special permission”.

She asks if any of the alleged attackers have “been under protection from the PSNI special branch, and if this is the real reasons why they got away with these attacks”.

The PSNI confirmed that Orde had received the letter from the family. “We take these matters very seriously and we will be keeping in regular contact with the family,” it said. “We are aware that the police ombudsman is investigating a number of complaints and we can assure the family that those investigations will receive our full co-operation.”

Devlin’s body was released by the police on Friday afternoon and his funeral takes place tomorrow.

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