Friday 23 March 2018

Boy ‘pressurised by police into changing his statement over murder’, court hears

Lesley-Anne McKeown

Police pressurised a 10-year-old boy into changing a statement connected to circumstances surrounding the death of Roseann Mallon, a coroner's court has heard.

A day after the pensioner was gunned down by the UVF in May 1994, two detectives visited Gareth Loughran's home and quizzed him about claims he had seen guns and army packs stashed in an old mill close to the murder scene.

Mr Loughran said: "It seemed to me at the time they wanted me to say I hadn't seen anything."

The long-delayed inquest into the death of Ms Mallon from Dungannon is being heard before a High Court judge at Belfast's Laganside complex.

Mr Justice Weir was also told a rifle used in the attack on May 8, 1994 had been part of a consignment brought in from Czechoslovakia in December 1987 used by loyalist paramilitaries during the early 1990s.

It had jammed as the two gunmen sprayed the house at Cullenrammer Road with bullets killing Ms Mallon,76, almost instantly.

No one has ever been convicted in connection with her death despite a number of people, including notorious loyalist Billy Wright, being arrested and questioned.

The UVF said its mid Ulster unit was responsible and had been targeting Ms Mallon's relatives who were involved with the republican movement.

British Army surveillance equipment including a camera was later found in a field overlooking the house, sparking claims of security force collusion.

The camera, which transmitted footage to soldiers based in a nearby wood, was about two feet long and had been hidden in bird nest materials covered with Army cloth.

In court, Mr Loughran, now an adult, described how he had gone to the old mill with his friend, Barry Rafferty - a relative of Ms Mallon, with the intention of building a hut.

He opened a bolted shed door and saw military-type rucksacks and about five or six guns leaning up against the wall.

"I know I seen (sic) at least five or six - a number of guns," he said.

The boys were then confronted by a man in camouflage type clothing who told them to leave the area.

They reported their discovery to their parents and were taken to their local police station the following day, Sunday, May 8, to make statements.

That night Ms Mallon was shot dead.

On May 9, two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) detectives visited the Loughran family home and spent two hours interviewing Gareth about his statement.

He said: "They just kept repeating the question."

Later he added: "They went over and over it again until they made me doubt myself. They made me think I hadn't seen anything."

Mr Loughran made a second statement in which he said he had lied about what he had seen at the mill.

In her evidence, the boy's mother, Sheila Loughran said she was unaware the police officers who visited her home had been interrogating her son.

"I know it sounds stupid 20 years on that I didn't know my child was being interrogated," she said.

Mrs Loughran, a nurse, said neither she or her husband, who were neighbours of the Mallons, had been present for the interview because she had thought the officers just wanted to clarify a few points.

She added: "Roseann had died. The dynamics had changed. Everybody was upset."

Mrs Loughran told the court she had accepted without question the authority of the officer who said that her son had lied.

"Twenty years on I wouldn't but then I would," she said.

Meanwhile, it was also revealed that the high velocity rifle used in the attack had been the weapon of choice for loyalist paramilitaries.

Barry Macdonald QC, barrister for the victim's family, said: "Quite a number of these rifles were intercepted on the way from Portadown to Belfast."

Forensic scientist James Wallace who examined the weapon said it had been stamped with the letters 'TL UVF'.

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