13 March 2006

Hit list was seized in search for killers - But document later destroyed by PSNI

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
13 March 2006

An electoral register found in the home of a UVF murder suspect with bullet shapes drawn beside some names was later destroyed by police, it emerged today.

The apparent hit list was discovered six years ago during searches associated with the hunt for the killers of Portadown teenagers Andrew Robb and David McIlwaine.

The document was found in the home of a UVF suspect shortly after the two teenagers were found with their throats cut beside a rural road near Tandragee in February 2000. The suspect's girlfriend told police that the list came from the home of a local UVF leader, but no one was charged in connection with the document.

It was later destroyed by police. The PSNI was asked yesterday if the destruction was routine procedure or if it contravened any rules about the handling of evidence, but a spokeswoman said police could not comment because an investigation by the Police Ombudsman is still under way.

The destruction of the partial electoral register is the latest in a series of incidents that have posed questions about the official handling of the case. They include:

The recent discovery of DNA and other forensic evidence that had not been acted upon for six years;
the revelation that a police officer phoned a UVF leader - the same one alleged to have supplied the list - on the morning the bodies were discovered; and the failure to hold an inquest into the apparent suicide of one of the chief suspects who had been under the protection of the same UVF commander.

A Police Ombudsman inquiry into the case had been ready to conclude that police conducted a thorough and professional investigation of the murders, but David McIlwaine's father Paul recently asked the Ombudsman to revisit the case because of the revelations about DNA evidence.

He was told about the list's destruction recently by PSNI detectives who have made a number of breakthroughs in the case over the past year. He says he believes the names marked with bullet shapes were Catholics living in the Tandragee area and did not directly relate to the double murder, but it is not clear if any warnings were issued after its discovery

"I'm pleased with the progress that's been made recently, but I still want to known why something of a crucial nature wasn't acted upon," he said.

The PSNI spokeswoman said: "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.

"Two people have been arrested and charged in connection with the murders of Andrew Robb and David McIlwaine in February 2000. They are due to appear in court in due course."

On Friday, the UVF called on witnesses to co-operate with police saying the murders were not sanctioned by the UVF leadership.

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