Tuesday 21 November 2017

Man arrested over 1974 murder case in Belfast

Bill Elliot. Photo: PA
Bill Elliot. Photo: PA

Ed Carty

A 57-YEAR-OLD man has been arrested over the murder of a police inspector almost 40 years ago in Northern Ireland.

Detectives detained the suspect in north Belfast less than 48 hours after announcing they were reopening investigations into the shooting of Bill Elliott in the city.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI) Serious Crime Branch reopened the case after a review of the killing by the police Historical Enquiries Team (HET) found new leads.

"The suspect was arrested in north Belfast this morning and has been taken to the serious crime suite in Antrim Police Station for questioning," a PSNI spokesman said.

Inspector Elliott was driving on his own when he heard news that a robbery was under way at the Ulster Bank in the Rathcoole area of Belfast in September 1974.

The 48-year-old, who was married with a son, raced to the scene and died after a shoot-out with republicans from the Official IRA who were armed with two submachine guns and a pistol.

Inspector Elliott was posthumously awarded the Queen's Police Medal.

The HET is re-examining killings from the Troubles, and in many cases provides bereaved families with reports on the murders, but it also alerts detectives to any new lines of investigation.

Two teenagers were jailed in the aftermath of the robbery.

Senior officers involved in the renewed investigation have claimed they feel it is still possible to solve the killing.

The original investigation became the focus of controversy when 18-year-old student Ronan Bennett - who is now a high-profile author and screenwriter - was convicted in connection with the killing, despite maintaining his innocence.

He has recounted that the evidence against him, that of a witness who gave a description of one of the gang, changed a number of times. His conviction was quickly quashed by the Northern Ireland Appeal Court, which cleared his name within a year of the trial.

The arrested man is not Mr Bennett.

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