The family of Thomas Armstrong, murdered alongside teenager Dwyane O’Donnell, John Quinn and Malcolm Nugent in a UVF attack on Boyle’s Bar, Cappagh in March 1991, yesterday sought leave at Belfast High Court before Justice Humphries to challenge the failure by the PSNI to instigate an independent investigation into the atrocity that also left several people seriously injured.
Lawyers, Phoenix Law, argued that there has never been an independent and legally compliant investigation despite persistent evidence of collusion.
The RUC carried out an ‘investigation’ at the time into the murders, unsurprisingly no one has ever been convicted.
In detailed papers, presented to the court, new evidence was outlined that catalogued irrefutable evidence of collusion in the attack including the role of the RUC’s special branch, and other State intelligence agencies, in arming and directing these and other UVF murders across the mid-Ulster area during the 1990’s.
The murders have rightly been the subject of much controversy over the years and admissions by former UVF members involved in related attacks also cite the role of the special branch, British army intelligence and MI5 as assisting loyalists in targeting republicans and their families in what amounts to a Counter-Insurgency and Collusion policy – the latter the very title of a recent book by Professor Mark McGovern who studied and analysed all of the information and available evidence including interviewing families, survivors and witnesses.
Previously the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) had revealed that members of the UDR were also suspects in the murders and after a lengthy battle the families finally obtained some of the findings in a report compiled by the HET.
Following the provision of that information the authorities acknowledged that an independent investigation was required.
However, this has never materialised in the intervening years despite persistent engagement with the PSNI by Phoenix Law on behalf of the Armstrong family.
Indicative of this was the fact that today in court the PSNI relied, in part, on correspondence only recently sent to the the applicants’ lawyers once a date had been fixed for the hearing and all of the papers lodged.
Judgement was reserved.
Speaking after the hearing Relatives for Justice CEO, Mark Thompson, said:
“In what other society would the State (PSNI) go to court to vigorously fight families who, with the help of Relatives for Justice and their lawyers, present irrefutable evidence of collusion with RUC special branch and other State agencies?
“That evidence extends to the provision of weapons to the Mid-Ulster UVF and used in these four murders and the wounding of others in the attack in Cappagh, County Tyrone, March 1991.
“These same weapons were also used in other murders and attacks across the mid-Ulster area by the same UVF murder gang: noting that the mid-Ulster UVF also comprised of members of the UDR.
“It is the job of police to seek evidence and proactively investigate murder and yet here we have the very opposite.
“This is beyond incredulous.
“The PSNI is actively preventing independent Article 2 compliant investigations.
“Such action equates to a de-facto form of impunity/amnesty that forever shields and protects all those involved.
“This is completely unacceptable.” ENDS
These murders have never been subject to any form of independent investigation compliant with the UK’s (PSNI’s) legal obligations under the law.
All the evidence presented at today’s hearing has emerged in more recent times.