the Troubles ireland
Family of those killed during the Troubles by loyalist paramilitaries in south Belfast pose together
Northern Ireland police were involved in 'collusive behaviours' over loyalist paramilitary murders during the Troubles, an investigation has found.

Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland Marie Anderson said she was 'deeply concerned' by the scale and scope of the failings she had uncovered in her probe.

She was looking into murders and attempted murders carried out by the Ulster Defence Association in south Belfast in the 1990s.

Eight loyalist attacks attributed to the UDA or its Ulster Freedom Fighters cover name were examined in the 344-page report published today.

Eleven people were murdered in the attacks, including five who lost their lives in the Sean Graham bookmakers atrocity on the Ormeau Road in February 1992.

Among her damning findings, Mrs Anderson said Royal Ulster Constabulary files relating to the bookmakers massacre had been deliberately destroyed.

She said 'collusive behaviours' identified in her report included:
  • Intelligence and surveillance failings which led to loyalist paramilitaries obtaining military grade weaponry in a 1987 arms importation;
  • A failure to warn two men of threats to their lives;
  • A failure to retain records and the deliberate destruction of files relating to the attack at Sean Graham bookmakers;
  • The failure to maintain records about the deactivation of weapons, 'indicating a desire to avoid accountability for these sensitive and contentious activities';
  • The failure of police to exploit all evidential opportunities;
  • Failures by Special Branch to disseminate intelligence to murder investigation teams;
  • An absence of control and oversight in the recruitment and management of informants;
  • Unjustifiable and continued use by RUC Special Branch of informants involved in serious criminality, including murder and 'turning a blind eye' to such activities.
The massacre at Sean Graham's bookmakers

Two masked Protestant paramilitary members marched into Sean Graham's bookmakers on Belfast's Ormeau Road at 2.20pm on February 5, 1992.

The UDA gunmen blasted round after round from their automatic weapons and hit 12 of the 13 people inside.

Five were slaughtered in the attack while seven were wounded.
sean graham bookmakers
Five Catholics were killed in the attack on a Belfast betting shop including Peter Magee, 18, (right) and James Kennedy, 15, (left) who is thought to be the youngest of the murder victims

The massacre also claimed the lives of William McManus (left), Christy Doherty, 52, ( centre ) and Jack Duffin
Sean Graham
Sean Graham's shop after the attack
The area of Belfast is mostly nationalist, with all the victims being from Catholic backgrounds.

Jack Duffin, 66, Mr McManus, 54, Christy Doherty, 52, and Peter Magee, 18, were all killed outright in the betting shop raid.

Fifteen-year-old school boy James Kennedy died in hospital after the attack. Their families have long believed that the security forces colluded in the attack.

Settlements were reached in the High Court last week over claims of state collusion in the murders.

Those affected had filed legal cases against the PSNI's chief constable, the government and the MoD.

A memorial for the victims on Saturday, marking 30 years since the incident, was attended by hundreds of mourners.
The ombudsman also described as 'totally unacceptable' the use by RUC Special Branch of informants who had themselves been involved in murders.

As well as raising concerns about the use of informants in relation to the cases under investigation in her report, the ombudsman commented on the wider Special Branch policy of employing informers that had been involved in murder.

She said the findings of the new probe, when combined with the conclusions of other reports published by her office in the past, had identified a total of eight UDA/UFF informants who were linked, through intelligence, to the murders and attempted murders of 27 people.

While she found no evidence police had received information that would have allowed them to prevent any of the attacks examined in the latest report, the ombudsman questioned why no such intelligence was received, given that Special Branch had such a network of informants within the UDA/UFF.

A senior PSNI officer said areas of the report made 'uncomfortable reading' and apologised to the families of those killed and injured for the failings identified.

A Court of Appeal judgment in 2020 has limited the scope of the ombudsman to accuse former officers of the criminal offence of collusion with paramilitaries.

Acknowledging this limitation, Mrs Anderson said she had identified conduct within the RUC that amounted to 'collusive behaviours'.

She said the long-held concerns of bereaved families and survivors about RUC conduct, including complaints of collusion with paramilitaries, were 'legitimate and justified'.

The murders and attempted murders were carried out between 1990 and 1998. All the victims were Catholic.

Christy Doherty, Jack Duffin, Peter Magee, Willie McManus and 15-year-old James Kennedy all died in the betting shop attack. Several others were badly injured.

The report also covered the murders of Harry Conlon and Aidan Wallace in 1991, Michael Gilbride in 1992, Martin Moran in 1993, Theresa Clinton in 1994 and Larry Brennan in 1998.

It also examined the attempted murder of Samuel Caskey in 1990.
Brother of murdered police officer vows his memory will not be forgotten

The brother of a police officer murdered by the IRA 50 years ago in Londonderry has said he will not allow his memory to be forgotten.

Two RUC officers were killed in the 1972 gun attack on their vehicle and were remembered at a wreath-laying ceremony at the war memorial in the city on the anniversary of their deaths on Thursday.

Sergeant Peter Gilgunn, 26, and constable David Montgomery, 20, were the first of 20 RUC casualties that year.

Their deaths occurred just three days before Bloody Sunday, in which 13 civil rights marchers were shot dead by soldiers.

Colin Montgomery, from Belfast, was 11 years old when his older brother was killed.

He said: 'David was a very smart, bubbly fellow. He loved cars. He was in his prime and enjoying life.

'He was training for his sergeant exam when he was murdered.'
The ombudsman said the RUC response to a significant escalation in UDA/UFF activity in the early 1990s led to it recruiting 'high-risk' informants suspected of involvement in previous murders.

She said Special Branch failed to consider the implications of this strategy or to properly manage the informers.

'This was totally unacceptable, and an illustration of how on occasion, the interests of obtaining information from informants was given precedence over the protection of the public from paramilitary crime and murder,' she said.

'I am of the view that the absence of controls, combined with the absence of records relating to these informants, constitutes collusive behaviour,' she said.

Mrs Anderson acknowledged that the RUC's use of informants yielded some success and potentially saved lives.

She said intelligence had also led to the arrest and conviction of a number of loyalists.

The ombudsman investigation found no evidence that police had actively sought to protect informants from arrest or prosecution.

She did however identify a 'pattern' of Special Branch failing to disseminate key intelligence to murder investigation teams.

She said the withholding of this information 'significantly impeded' the ability of police to bring perpetrators to justice.

The ombudsman raised specific concerns that intelligence on suspects was not shared with detectives investigating the murders of Mr Conlon, Mr Wallace and Mr Gilbride. A memorial on Ormeau Road to those killed in the betting shop shooting in 1992

In relation to the bookmakers attack, photographs of a west Belfast loyalist meeting four men in a car linked to the UDA/UFF were not shared with detectives and are now no longer available.

The images were taken on the day the loyalist, who was suspected of a role in the Sean Graham atrocity, was believed to have been moving a 9mm pistol.

The ombudsman said there was also a failure to advise detectives about the use of covert investigatory measures shortly after the betting shop attack.

She said this resulted in a lost opportunity to recover items directly linked to the shooting, including firearms and clothing.

Mrs Anderson said she had also found no evidence that the murder team was advised that two suspects had met at a flat in the Annadale area before the attack.

The investigative errors identified in some of the RUC investigations included not checking CCTV or conducting background checks on cars; failure to search the house of a suspect; failure to conduct full forensic tests on blood found on a suspect's coat; failure to test a suspected getaway car for gunshot resin and 'utterly compromising' an identification parade involving a murder suspect.

Comment: Bearing in mind the ealier allegation of 'a desire to avoid accountability' and the destruction of important documents, it's likely that some of these weren't simply 'investigative errors', they were intentional.

In regard to the Sean Graham attack, the report said there was a delay in recovering and forensically examining the car; blood found on the coat of a suspect was not tested against the blood of the dead and injured; and a man suspected of having moved weapons was not arrested.

The ombudsman said there was also no evidence police took steps to test an aspect of a suspect's alibi.

The report also identified concerns about police returning of both 'deactivated' and live weapons to a loyalist informant. Theresa Clinton´s daughters Roseann Murray (left) and Siobhan Kelly and her widow Jim Clinton read the Police Ombudsman´s report

This was despite police being aware of intelligence that loyalists had the ability to make deactivated weapons operational again.

One weapon - a deactivated Browning pistol - was subsequently reactivated and used in the murder of Mr Wallace and in the Sean Graham bookmakers shooting.

The ombudsman also criticised a failure by Special Branch to issue threat warnings to two men after intelligence indicated their lives were in danger.

The threats related to Mr Caskey prior to the murder attempt on him in 1990 and to Jim Clinton, whose wife Theresa was killed in the attack on their home in 1994.

Mrs Anderson said the failure to warn both men contravened police guidance for the issuing of threat warnings.

'I am of the view that this serious omission constitutes collusive behaviour,' she said.

The ombudsman also identified instances of weapons connected to murder inquiries being disposed of in 'inappropriate' ways, as well as evidence of records being routinely destroyed by the police.

She said a decision to donate the VZ58 rifle used in the bookmakers attack to the Imperial War Museum had caused 'understandable distress to the victims, survivors and their families'.

Mrs Anderson also criticised the fact that a Browning pistol used during the bookmakers attack and in the murder of Mr Wallace had been returned to the military. The gun had been stolen from the UDR by loyalists in January 1989.

She said the 'routine' destruction of records by the RUC's Tasking and Co-ordinating Group, including records of covert operations and the intelligence underpinning them, had 'obstructed examination of accountability'.

She referred in particular to the decision to destroy records relating to the bookmakers shooting.

'As a consequence, there are no records of the decision/decisions not to recover the weapons and other items likely to have been used in the attack, some of which were never recovered, or not recovered until months later,' she said.

'Similarly, there are no records of the decision not to make early arrests of those in possession of these items.

'The recovery of this material and these arrests could well have proven key to the detection of these crimes.'

The ombudsman also looked at a ninth loyalist attack - the murder of John O'Hara in 1991.

However, details of that investigation are not included in the published report due to ongoing criminal proceedings linked to that crime.

'We will never seek to excuse bad policing and where criticism is reasonably made the police service will acknowledge and address that.

'There is a willingness to consider and examine police actions openly, professionally and proportionately; where there has been wrongdoing, those responsible should be held to account for their actions.
British troops ireland
In this May 5, 1981 file photo British troops, in foreground, clash with demonstrators in a Catholic dominated area of Belfast, Northern Ireland
bombing ireland
Photo dated December 7, 1982, showing the devastation caused by a time bomb exploded by the Irish National Liberation Army the evening before at the Droppin Well pub in Ballykelly
'We have recognised the deficiencies and failings that have been previously highlighted by a number of inquiries regarding the handling and dissemination of intelligence by the RUC.

'These have been addressed by the restructuring of our intelligence systems and processes through the formation of Crime Department.

'This department is led by a single Assistant Chief Constable to ensure consistency and transparency by full and proper oversight of both the investigative and intelligence branches within a single department.

'Policing has developed enormously over the past 30 years and the Police Service of Northern Ireland now have greatly improved policies and procedures which guide our response to potential threats and how we approach criminal investigations.

'Intelligence handling, training and investigative standards for detectives, forensic opportunities and family liaison processes are today are unrecognisable from what was in place at the time of these attacks.'
What is the timeline of the Northern Ireland Troubles and peace process?

August 1969: British Government first send troops into Northern Ireland to restore order after three days of rioting in Catholic Londonderry

30 January 1972: On 'Bloody Sunday' 13 civilians are shot dead by the British Army during a civil rights march in Londonderry

March 1972: The Stormont Government is dissolved and direct rule imposed by London

1970s: The IRA begin its bloody campaign of bombings and assassinations in Britain

April 1981: Bobby Sands, a republicans on hunger strike in the Maze prison, is elected to Parliament. He dies a month later

October 1984: An IRA bomb explodes at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, where Margaret Thatcher is staying during the Tory Party conference

Early 1990s: Margaret Thatcher and then Sir John Major set up a secret back channel with the IRA to start peace talks. The communications was so secret most ministers did not know about it.

April 1998: Tony Blair helps to broker the Good Friday Agreement, which is hailed as the end of the Troubles. It establishes the Northern Ireland Assembly with David Trimble as its first minister.

2000s: With some exceptions the peace process holds and republican and loyalist paramilitaries decommission their weapons

May 2011: The Queen and Prince Philip make a state visit to Ireland, the first since the 1911 tour by George V. In a hugely symbolic moment, the Queen is pictured shaking hands with Martin McGuinness - a former IRA leader.