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Investigation into journalists arrested over Loughinisland massacre documents dropped

The men were arrested over the suspected theft of documents used in a documentary about the 1994 murders.

Journalists Barry McCaffrey (left) and Trevor Birney (right)
Journalists Barry McCaffrey (left) and Trevor Birney (right)
Image: Liam McBurney via PA Images

AN INVESTIGATION INTO two journalists arrested over the suspected theft of confidential documents relating to the Loughinisland massacre has been dropped.

In September, Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, two journalists involved in a documentary about the murders of six men in a Loughinisland bar in 1994 were arrested but released on bail over the alleged theft of the confidential documents.

The PSNI subsequently asked Durham Constabulary to conduct an independent review into the alleged incident.

The day six men in a Loughinisland bar were murdered, members of the loyalist paramilitary group the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) entered the Heights Bar and started shooting as football fans watched the Republic of Ireland team play in the 1994 Fifa World Cup. Six men were killed and five others were injured.

The PSNI has now confirmed that, following a judicial review, a decision has been taken not to progress the investigation and both Birney and McCaffrey will be released from police bail. 

“We are in the process of concluding what has been a highly complex investigation, with some final lines of inquiry still to be assessed. These lines of inquiry do not include the journalists, Mr Birney or Mr McCaffrey, as suspects in the investigation,” Durham Constabulary Chief Constable Mike Barton said.

At all times, my officers have acted in good faith, within the law and followed due process. The warrant application was originally submitted to and approved by a county court judge. We do, however, accept and respect the decision of the High Court last week.

Barton said they plan to produce a final report to the Chief Constable of the PSNI outlining all findings. 

In response, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said he has “always accepted the autonomy of Chief Constable Barton’s inquiry” and that he fully concurs with “his decision not to progress the investigation into the two journalists Mr Birney and Mr McCaffrey”. 

“Throughout the period of this investigation, the horror of what happened in Loughinisland has never been far from any of our thoughts. The perpetrators of that crime have never been brought to justice and that is a matter of huge regret for policing,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton has appealed to anyone with information in relation to the 1994 incident to come forward and make a statement. 

I am aware that the investigation over the last year has caused concern for families who have already suffered so much. That is something none of us would ever have wished to do.

“However, as a police service, the suspected theft or unlawful leaking of any sensitive documents containing information that may endanger life is a serious matter which is are statutorily obliged to investigate,” Hamilton said. 

Reaction

SDLP policing spokesperson Dolores Kelly MLA has welcomed the news that the investigation has been dropped. 

“After the strong vindication of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey by the Lord Chief Justice last week, news that the PSNI is to drop its investigation of these two fearless journalists is very welcome,” Kelly said.

Trevor and Barry have faced an incredible ordeal simply for speaking truth to power.

“Instead of criminalising their entirely professional and ethical actions, their contribution to seeking justice for the Loughinisland families should be hailed.”

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