A NEW REPORT on the police handling of the 1994 Loughinisland killings has found serious failings in the subsequent investigation.
The North’s Police Ombudsman has said there was a lack of effective leadership and diligence – but denied any collusion between security forces and loyalist groups. Six people were killed in the Co Down village when UVF members walked into The Heights Bar and opened fire with assault rifles during the Republic of Ireland vs Italy World Cup match. Five others were wounded.
Since the killings, 16 people have been arrested – some more than once – but there have been no convictions. The Ombudsman’s report found that the car used by the gunmen was destroyed when it should not have been, that records are missing, and that links between the killings and other atrocities in which one of the same weapons was used were not sufficiently examined. It also reveals that the original senior investigating officer did not co-operate with the new investigation.
Ombudsman Al Hutchinson said: “These cumulatively indicate a lack of cohesive and focused effort over the years. The families [of the victims] have been failed.” But he continued: “While there is reason to be suspicious over certain police actions, I consider there is insufficient evidence to establish that collusion took place.”
Mr Hutchinson admitted that the victims’ families “still firmly believe that there was collusion”, and said he would be meeting with them over the coming days.
However, SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie called on Mr Hutchinson to resign and said he has “repeatedly failed to measure up”, the Irish News reports (print edition only). “Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary he has concluded that there was no collusion,” she said, adding that he had “done a great disservice to the families of those murdered”.
The PSNI has welcomed the report and apologised for any past failings.