Wednesday 13 November 2019

Report doesn't rule out 'rogue' police officers' role in murder of solicitor

Steven McCaffery

A damning report on the loyalist murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson has found the state of Northern Ireland failed to protect her, while police officers abused and assaulted the lawyer.

The public inquiry could find no direct security force role in the murder of the 40-year-old mother of three killed in a car bombing in 1999, but said it could not rule out that "rogue" elements may have assisted the killers.

It said it believed the leaking of police intelligence "increased the danger to Rosemary Nelson's life", while threats made against the solicitor by officers "had the subsequent effect of legitimising her as a target in the eyes of loyalist terrorists".

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson apologised for the failings, as did PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

The 700-word document was the end product of an inquiry that cost £46.5m (€53m).

It catalogued failures by the RUC and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) which resulted in a failure to warn Mrs Nelson of the danger she faced or to offer her adequate protection.

The inquiry concluded: "The combined effect of these omissions by the RUC and the NIO was that the state failed to take responsible and proportionate steps to safeguard the life of Rosemary Nelson."

Mrs Nelson rose to prominence after taking on a number of high-profile clients.

They included suspected republican terrorists as well as the family of a Catholic man murdered by a loyalist mob, plus a nationalist residents' group opposing Orange Order parades in the infamous Drumcree stand-off.

By the mid-1990s she had started to allege security force intimidation and reported receiving death threats from loyalists.

International human rights groups and the UN were among those who raised concerns for Mrs Nelson's safety.

The report did not believe there was anything suspicious about security force activity near Mrs Nelson's Lurgan home on the eve of her murder.

Irish Independent

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