A MOCKERY OF AN INVESTIGATION
The police investigation into the murder of Catholic man Sean
Brown in 1997 has been taken apart in a damning report by the
Police Ombudsman today.
The report is a damning indictment of the policy of collusion
and cover up in what was a mockery of a police investigation.
Nuala O'Loan branded inquiries into the killing of Sean Brown,
61, in County Derry as "incomplete and inadequate" and that
real effort had been made to apprehend the killers.
She concluded that, while it was clear police officers probing
the murder did not get full co-operation from the community,
there were "significant failures in the investigation".
Speaking today, she also described the disappearance of files
on the case as "sinister". Although she found no evidence of
collusion, there was a clear suggestion in the Ombudsman's
report that such evidence may have simply been destroyed.
The report also backed the complaints of the family who said
that they had been treated with contempt and that the former
RUC and PSNI Chief Ronnie Flanagan had ignored a request from
the Corone for an outside investigation.
The report listed a catalogue of failures and also highlighted
the sudden disappearance of the police file on the murder once
it was known the ombudsman was carrying out an investigation.
The PSNI mounted as major damage limitation exercise in
advance of the report's publication. PSNI Chief Hugh Orde,
admitted today there had been "significant failures" in the
force. He apologised to the Brown family and said he had set
up a special team to reinvestigate the murder.
Mr Brown, chairman of a Gaelic Athletic Association club in
Bellaghy, was abducted from outside the club late on May 12,
He was driven in the boot of his car several miles to near
Randalstown where he was shot six times. His body was found
next to the car which had been set alight.
The Loyalist Volunteer Force was blamed but, although a number
of people were questioned, nobody was charged.
Launching her report at a Belfast news conference, Mrs O'Loan
highlighted a series of failures in the original police
On the forensic front, a number of cigarette butts found close
to the body of the murdered man were not subjected to DNA
analysis. No biological samples were taken from any of the
people arrested for questioning and later released.
There had been no proper search for witnesses and one man who
did come forward did not have his information followed up.
Mrs O'Loan noted that all relevant intelligence material had
not been passed to the original police investigation team.
She was most critical about disappearing police files. She
said the Murder Investigation Policy file, drawn up by the now
retired senior investigating officer and detailing how the
inquiry was conducted, had disappeared from a police station
after her probe was announced.
"I regard it as sinister that this document disappeared," she
said. "It was the only document which disappeared form this
particular police station."
She said the absence of the document "seriously impeded my
investigation" as it contained details written down by the
senior investigating officer about why he had done certain
things and equally why he had not done other things.
In her report, Mrs O'Loan recommended a full independent
review into the murder and that the Brown family be kept
informed of all developments.
The review, she recommended, should be linked with the
investigation of two other murders, in which the same or a
similar weapon was used.
She said the Brown family's concerns about the quality of the
investigation had caused them significant additional stress
and suffering. Sshe had recommended that the Chief Constable
pay them the maximum amount permitted under the Police (NI)
Act 1988 -- two thousand pounds in recognition of the
She said the amount of money was not a lot, but added: "It is
the only payment that I can recommend."
She said no disciplinary action could be taken against the
senior officer who headed the murder probe because of his
Before launching the report publicly, Mrs O'Loan visited the
Brown family to present them with a copy of it. She described
Mr Brown as "a good man, a courageous man."
Speaking after the launch, Mr Brown's son, Damian, said the
report had "opened up a lot of wounds" of the horror of the
day his father died.
He said the family had demanded a totally independent inquiry
by a police force outside Northern Ireland, adding: "We will
not be happy with an investigation by the PSNI, we want it by
a totally outside force."
The family's lawyer, Kevin Winter, said the original probe had
been seriously wrong and flawed, and a reinvestigation by the
PSNI would "only be a case of tarring over the cracks using
the same brush".
He revealed the family had today instructed him to take legal
action to stop the fresh investigation unless it was conducted
by someone other than the PSNI.
Sinn Fein Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness said he believed
that the murder of Sean Brown ten days after the 1997
Westminster election was a direct response by the unionist
paramilitaries to the DUP MP Willie Mc losing his seat.
He also questioned the current role of former RUC Chief Ronnie
Flanagan as a Policing Inspector given the content of thes
"It is my belief that serious questions remain over the
current position of Ronnie Flanagan as a policing inspector
given the detail contained in this report and other similar
"There is also now an onus on the current PSNI Chief Constable
Hugh Orde to state publicly if the individuals involved in the
original investigation are still members of his force and to
explain how files went missing from barracks where only his
officers had access to them.
Mr McGuinness also paid tribute to Sean Brown's family who he
said had "refused to accept the lies and the half truths. They
demanded to know the truth and they have pursued this matter
relentlessly over the past six years.
"It is my hope that this Report can act as a catalyst to allow
the family of Sean Brown to finally discover the truth around