13 March 2006

COVER-UP

Daily Ireland

- Evidence destroyed to ‘save UVF figure employed by Special Branch’ - Initial PSNI investigation now probed by Police Ombudsman - Father of murdered teenager says: ‘It stinks to high heaven’
By Jarlath Kearney
13/03/2006

Evidence that could have implicated a senior mid-Ulster Ulster Volunteer Force member in the targeting of Catholics was destroyed because the loyalist is a Special Branch agent, it was alleged last night.
The controversy centres on the cut-throat murders of Andrew Robb and David McIlwaine in Tandragee, Co Armagh, on February 19, 2000.
An informed source has told Daily Ireland that the PSNI has destroyed an electoral register marked with targeting information about Catholics and recovered during follow-up searches after the double murder.
The source also alleged that the destruction of the marked electoral register was officially known at a senior level in the PSNI. No one was ever charged with illegally possessing the marked electoral register before it was destroyed.
However, Daily Ireland understands that the document may have been linked to a senior UVF member who has never been arrested in connection with the murders or subsequent investigations. This person is believed to be a top Special Branch agent in or around Co Armagh.
News that the document had been destroyed only emerged after a new senior investigating officer was appointed to reinvestigate the double murder. Since the new officer began a reinvestigation last autumn, two people have been charged in connection with the murders. It emerged two weeks ago that forensic evidence, including DNA samples, linking a different suspect with the murdered teenagers had also turned up.
Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan is conducting an investigation of the original RUC/PSNI investigation.
On Saturday, the mid-Ulster UVF issued a public statement denying that the organisation had sanctioned the murders in 2000. The UVF said it fully supported the campaign for truth and justice by the two dead men’s relatives.
Asked to comment on the latest allegations last night, David McIlwaine’s father Paul told Daily Ireland he believed a senior UVF member at the centre of the affair had been protected because he was a Special Branch agent.
“This is absolutely disgusting news and vindicates all of the fears we expressed about the original investigation from day one. It stinks to high heaven,” he said.
“I have a lot of confidence in the new senior investigating officer appointed last year.
“I am relieved that someone in the PSNI is being honest with us.
“It is totally unacceptable that there was evidence there at the start which could and should have been acted upon but which was not.
“It is my belief that this Special Branch agent would have certainly ordered and possibly taken part in the killings and that they did so of their own volition and without any authority from the UVF leadership.
“I also understand that this person was questioned by the UVF leadership at the time and in fact lied to them, denying any knowledge of the killings.
“Before this latest information emerged, I would have accepted that we could have put a lot of the deficiencies in the original investigation down to gross negligence or incompetence of the highest level.
“However, I am now 100 per cent of the belief that the person at the centre of this entire episode — who has never been arrested in relation to the case — is a police agent who has been protected,” he said.
“I have lodged a formal complaint with the Police Ombudsman about the original investigation.”
Mark Thompson of the Belfast-based group Relatives for Justice said there were now “serious and outstanding questions that need to be addressed about this affair as a matter of urgency”.
“We are calling on the Policing Board to initiate a fully independent public inquiry into both the killing of David McIlwaine and Andrew Robb and into a series of highly questionable practices in terms of the conduct of senior PSNI members,” said Mr Thompson.
Sinn Féin policing spokesman Gerry Kelly told Daily Ireland the affair was “an appalling episode of political policing”.
“All of this appears to have been done to cover up the involvement of a Special Branch agent at the centre of this affair who has yet to be brought to justice,” Mr Kelly said.
The Belfast North assembly member criticised the Policing Board and the PSNI over the affair.
He said his party would raise the latest developments with British prime minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, as well as with Nuala O’Loan.
A PSNI spokesperson told Daily Ireland: “As the initial investigation into this case is currently under investigation by the office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, it would be inappropriate for PSNI to comment further at this time.”

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