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RUC sergeant shot dead could have been saved 'if he was warned' by senior officers

Sgt Joe Campbell was shot on the evening of 25 February 1977

The badge of the Royal Ulster Constabulary
The badge of the Royal Ulster Constabulary
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

THE MURDER OF a Catholic RUC officer in 1977 could have been prevented by senior officers a report by the North’s Police Ombudsman has concluded.

The report into the death of Sergeant Joe Campbell has found that the RUC were aware of specific threats to his life but did not warn him about it.

Futhermore, the report found that warnings about the threats were not passed on to detectives who investigated his subsequent murder.

Sgt Campbell was shot on the evening of 25 February 1977 as he locked the main gates of the Cushendall Police Station in Co Antrim and died a short time later.

In his report, Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said that senior police officers throughout the RUC were aware of documented concerns over Sgt Campbell’s life and “failed to act upon them”:

Sergeant Campbell should have been warned, which would have allowed him to vary his routine. Police could have mounted visible police patrols in the area and if necessary posted him to an area where the threat would have been diminished or removed. None of this was done

PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said that the Ombudsman’s report “makes difficult reading”.

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“It is clear there were significant shortcomings in the RUC handling of information prior to the murder and in both subsequent police investigations into Sgt Campbell’s murder. And for that, I am truly sorry,” he said.

More than 30 retired RUC officers provided information to the Police Ombudsman as part of the report but Finlay noted his disappointment that “a number of retired officers felt unable to engage with this Police Ombudsman’s investigation”.

Read: Ombudsman finds ‘no evidence’ that RUC involved in murder attempt on Gerry Adams >

Read: Gerry Adams: ‘Laissez faire’ comments reflect what is recorded by Smithwick Tribunal >

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Rónán Duffy

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