25 April 2006

Officers in civilian shooting inquiry take early retirement

Daily Ireland

by Ciarán Barnes

A number of PSNI members involved in an operation which resulted in an unarmed civilian being shot dead have taken early retirement.
As a result of the officers’ retirements, the Police Ombudsman, which has been investigating the controversial killing of Neil McConville, is unable to instigate disciplinary action against the ex-officers should they be found guilty of malpractice.
The Ombudsman’s report is due to be published before the end of the year.
It is expected to be heavily critical of the PSNI operation and of Special Branch detectives who deleted files relating to the case.
Mr McConville was shot dead at close range near Lisburn, Co Antrim, on April 29, 2003.
Sources within the ombudsman’s office told Daily Ireland that “a number” of officers involved in the McConville case had taken early retirement.
They were unable to put a figure on how many this involved, although they said the police operation on the night involved “many, many officers”.
The admission came after Barry McConville, a cousin of the dead man, complained that Ombudsman investigators were unable to question key police witnesses because they had gone on sick leave after the killing. It is understood that at least one of these officers retired after spending two years on sick leave.
“Because of officers going on sick leave and others taking early retirement the Police Ombudsman has not been able to carry out a proper investigation,” said Mr McConville.
The controversy surrounding the McConville killing came to the fore again after the PSNI shot dead suspected car thief Steven Colwell on Easter Sunday.
Like Mr McConville, Mr Colwell was unarmed and apparently shot at close range. The officer who fatally wounded Mr Colwell, has been on sick leave since the killing.

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