Saturday 16 December 2017

PSNI chief rejects SF onslaught over arrest

Michael McHugh and Steven McCaffery

Northern Ireland's most senior police officer yesterday defended his force's actions after Sinn Fein criticised arrests linked to the murder of one of his men.

Constable Ronan Kerr (25) was killed when a booby-trap bomb exploded under his car outside his home in Omagh, Co Tyrone, on April 2.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness questioned the detention of a 22-year-old man in Coalisland, Co Tyrone, who has since been released. The former suspect's lawyer claimed there was insufficient evidence.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott said: "The investigation into the murder of Ronan Kerr, and other very serious associated crimes, is complex and will take considerable time.

"My assurance is that the investigation will remain methodical and relentless and will continue to be absolutely impartial and completely free of political influence."

Mr Kerr's death prompted cross-community sympathy.

Sinn Fein has supported the police service and takes an active role in its oversight. But yesterday, Mr McGuinness voiced some of his fiercest criticism of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for many years.

He said: "The young man who was arrested and subsequently released was in the USA at the time of that murder and was in no way involved in it.

"People are in no doubt where I stand in relation to the killers of Ronan Kerr. However, the arrest and release of this young man raises very serious questions about the quality of the current PSNI investigation."

Detectives arrested five men ranging in age from 22 to 46 on Tuesday and later released them.

Padraig O Muirigh, lawyer for the man whose arrest prompted Mr McGuinness's outburst, said: "The arrest appears to have been made on dubious intelligence and without any evidential basis."

Irish Independent

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