RUC destroyed shoot-to-kill evidence
A spokeperson for the PSNI police told a Dungannon court on
Tuesday that vital documents relating to the SAS killings of
three IRA Volunteers in Coagh County Tyrone were destroyed by the
The proceedings are part of a preliminary hearing to determine
the relevance of material being requested by legal
representatives of the families of seven IRA Volunteers and
76-year-old Roseanne Mallon, shot dead by loyalists. It will
eventually allow a coroner to properly examine the circumstances
surrounding the deaths.
Volunteers Tony Doris, Lawrence McNally and Pete Ryan died
instantly on 6 June 1991, when the car they were driving through
Hanover Square in Coagh, Co Tyrone, was riddled with more than
200 bullets and burst into flames. SAS gunmen fired into the
crippled vehicle for more than ten minutes from at least eight
Less than a year later, on Sunday 16 February 1992, another four
IRA Volunteers were shot dead by the SAS in Clonoe, Co Tyrone.
They had just carried out a machinegun and rifle attack on the
Coalisland RUC barracks, and were removing the 12.7mm machine gun
from a vehicle mounting when the SAS opened fire.
Again, the firing continued for at least ten minutes. After it
abated, one Volunteer managed to struggle to his feet, his hands
in the air to surrender. The SAS opened fire a second time and he
fell, fatally wounded.
Volunteers Patrick Vincent, Kevin Barry O'Donnell, Sean O'Farrell
and Peter Clancy were all killed that day. All of them were under
23 years of age.
Roseanne Mallon, a pensioner from Lisgallon Co. Tyrone, was shot
dead by the UVF as she watched television at the home of her
sister-in-law in Killymoyle on 8 May 1994. A gunman fired through
the sitting room window of the home, hitting Roseanne four or
five times in the back as she sat in a chair. Her sister-in-law
later confirmed the blinds on the front windows of the house had
been raised at the time. "They knew they were hitting an old
woman," she said.
Two months after Roseanne's death, two surveillance cameras were
found in a nearby field, pointing directly at the house where she
had died. The RUC later issued a statement saying there was no
video evidence relating to the killing.
This week, a PSNI spokesperson told the coroner that the
"original notes of questions and answer sessions with soldiers
involved in the Coagh killings, and some forensic notes, and
other statements had been destroyed".
Coroner Roger McLarnon told the court that the documents were
"central to the court" and that this was "clearly
"When had these been destroyed and under what authority?" he
The PSNI told the court the evidence had been destroyed in 1996
while in Gough Barracks. It was claimed that the documents had
been stored in an area that had been contaminated by asbestos
dust and therefore, in the interests of Health and Safety, had to
The coronor challenged this statement, asking, "would it have
been proper to seal the material and make copies?" He requested
that "the principal parties that took these decisions clarify for
the court why this had not occurred".
A spokesperson for Relatives for Justice said: "The central
issues in all these cases is that the MoD and the PSNI are
withholding vital material both from the coronor and the
families' legal teams. This has been ongoing for just over a
year. The claims today have moved beyond previous claims of
public interest and are both bold and breathtaking. They are also
"To at this stage introduce or offer this excuse in an insult to
our intelligence. When these documents were first sought over a
year ago, this claim did not arise. Now, when the coronor might
seek to rule that they are relevant to the inquests, it is
revealed they have been destroyed?"
Relatives for Justice has raised the matter with the Irish
Department of Foreign Affairs on request of the familes, and has
asked the Dublin government to raise the issue with their British
Eugene McKenna, the lawyer representing some the families
involved, said the startling admission is only the latest in
attempts by crown forces to thwart the push for a full formal
"My major concern is that this comes on the heels of a statement
by the MoD, in which they said they had no documentation on any
of these cases. We're expected to believe this operation did not
generate any documents that would have been archived. It's
In a statement, a spokesperson for the family of Pete Ryan said:
"The Ryan family are outraged at the mere suggestion that the
"interview notes" were destroyed due to a health risk at Gough
"We believe this to be the lamest excuse from the Ministry of
Defence for not supplying information which is important to the
inquest. Indeed, we are not surprised that such a revelation has
"We would be interested to know why, after 15 months' hearings
the MoD have managed to 'pluck' this one out of the air."