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RUC `know loyalist gang who killed lawyer'

AS THE campaign for an independent investigation into the murder of Rosemary Nelson gathers steam, the RUC believes it has already identified her killers.

However, while the RUC may be convinced it has tracked down the murder gang, few of the slain solicitor's supporters believe anything the RUC says.

RUC sources say loyalist terrorists are thought to have been responsible for assembling and fitting a bomb below her car on March 15 when it was parked outside her home. It exploded and killed her shortly after she drove away.

But in the epicentre of suspicion straddling Portadown and Lurgan, even the most moderate nationalists refuse to rule out RUC involvement in the killing.

Elements of the LVF in Portadown and freelance members of other loyalist paramilitary groups currently on ceasefire combined to commit the atrocity.

A UVF bomb maker, who was subsequently murdered, is suspected of preparing the device and sources say the bomb had his signature, if not his fingerprints, on it.

But while they are satisfied that their suspects perpetrated the murder, sources say getting sufficient evidence to bring charges against them will be more difficult. However, rather than assuage the anger of friends and supporters of the late Mrs Nelson, the conclusions drawn by the investigating detectives are likely to lead to further calls for an independent inquiry.

There was a full page advertisement in the Irish Times yesterday urging the Taoiseach to publicly and privately call for an independent, international judicial inquiry into Mrs Nelson's murder.

This follows a resolution in the US House of Representatives calling on the British government to initiate an independent inquiry into the murder of the Portadown solicitor.

Last week, the House International Affairs Committee voted unanimously to bar members of the RUC taking part in FBI courses until an independent inquiry, excluding the RUC, investigates the murder.

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The message from the US wasn't lost on the Taoiseach who told the Dail yesterday he believed the allegations against the RUC stood up and that Rosemary Nelson had herself given detailed accounts to the congressional hearings on the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane ten years ago. Mr Ahern said he attended a congressional hearing where details of RUC intimidation were outlined and he believed the allegations.

He went on to say that it's not much use sending Australians or Americans, that the RUC has the local knowledge and must be involved in any investigation.

However, Mr Ahern said the FBI and two other British police forces are involved in the investigation and he was not yet fully satisfied that the current investigation can give confidence to potential witness to come forward.

Yesterday, Barra McGrory, the solicitor for Paul Nelson, said his client was uneasy that as things stand at present there will not be the thorough investigation the murder merits.

A UN special investigator into the murder ten years ago of solicitor Pat Finucane said there was prima facie evidence of collusion by the security forces.

Malaysian jurist Param Cumaraswamy presented a report in Geneva saying the RUC had shown complete indifference to complaints from lawyers including Mrs Nelson of threats made through clients being questioned by RUC officers.

The UN investigator went on to say that Mrs Nelson had lodged several complaints against the RUC and there was a nagging feeling that their involvement in the investigation could taint it.

On Tuesday, British human rights solicitor Gareth Pierce was at the launch of the campaign for an independent international investigation and a judicial inquiry into the murder of Mrs Nelson.

Ms Pierce said she travelled to Belfast to add her voice to the campaign for an independent investigation.

She said that a bad, misleading or failed investigation would be worse than no investigation at all.

There may be tensions between the 40 RUC detectives and the 12 officers from Britain investigating the murder, but the FBI agent assigned to the Nelson case has been sympathetic to the RUC.

FBI legal attache, John E Guido, paid tribune to the RUC's participation in the Nelson investigation saying they were a very dedicated and professional inquiry team.

Evidence of British military intelligence involvement in the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane was uncovered by John Stephens, an Assistant Commissioner of the London Metropolitan force.

Stephens discovered that a UDA intelligence operative, Brian Nelson, was a British agent who passed the information that Mr Finucane was to be murdered on to his handler.

But rather than compromise Nelson, British intelligence refused to pass the message on to the RUC or Mr Finucane.

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