Rosaleen O’Kane – family request fresh inquest

The sister of Rosaleen O Kane has issued a request for a Fresh Inquest to the Attorney General on the 45th Anniversary of her Death.


The sister of Rosaleen O Kane has issued a request for a Fresh Inquest to the Attorney General on the 45th Anniversary of her Death.

Joint statement from Mike Ritchie of Relatives for Justice and Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors & Advocates

24th September 2021

Lawyers for Kathleen Graham, sister of Rosaleen O Kane, who was murdered in her flat in North Belfast in September 1976, issued correspondence on the 45th anniversary of her murder, challenging the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, the Chief Constable, and the Police Ombudsman to properly investigate her death.

Rosaleen O Kane, a 33-year-old single woman, was found murdered in her flat at Cliftonpark Avenue, Belfast on the 17th of September 1976.  Miss O Kane’s body had been stripped naked, set alight and she had also sustained a fracture to her skull.  A second fire had been set in another area of the flat.

The original post-mortem examination in 1976 was unable to determine the exact cause of death because the pathologist could not conclude whether the fracture to her skull had been inflicted before she died or was a consequence of the fire.  The same report confirmed that there was no smoke inhalation in Ms O Kane’s lungs.  Blood and other forensic samples taken during the post-mortem which might have assisted in determining the cause of death and assisted police in their investigation were destroyed the next day in a fire in the Northern Ireland Forensic Laboratory on 18th September 1976.

In 2002 relatives of Miss O Kane met with senior PSNI officers with a request that the murder investigation into their sister’s death be re-opened.  The family has always believed that her murder was sectarian.  At that meeting in 2002 police confirmed that they could not rule out a sectarian motive for the murder of Rosaleen O Kane.

Since the 2002 meeting with police the family of Rosaleen O Kane have repeatedly requested that the murder investigation be re-opened.  In October 2004 senior police in the PSNI referred the case to the Serious Crime Review Team (SCRT).  From 2002 to 2018 the family pursued requests for a full and proper police investigation.  The SCRT made recommendations of further lines of enquiry in 2011 but 10 years on the recommendations have still not been carried out.  During that time the investigation was transferred to the Retrospective Murder Investigation Team (REMIT) and then to the Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB).

Lawyers for the family also lodged 2 requests for a fresh inquest with the Attorney General for NI.  The original inquest on the 19th of October 1977 returned an open verdict.  That inquest had not been provided with any proper information about the 1976 police investigation and was deprived of any proper effectiveness.   In the absence of a full police investigation a request for a fresh inquest was lodged in May 2016 but was refused in August 2017.  A second application was made in January 2018 but was refused in May 2018.  The family now ask again, 45 years after the death, that the Attorney General consider directing a fresh inquest into the death of Rosaleen O Kane.

Kathleen Graham, sister of Rosaleen O Kane, said today.

We would like the truth.  Even one bit of truth.  Rosaleen was our sister, but she was like our mother.  I still miss her every day.”

Patricia Coyle of Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors & Advocates said today:

There has never been an effective investigation into the death of Rosaleen O Kane despite the existence of clear lines of enquiry.  This is completely inexplicable and gives rise to serious concern.  It is extremely distressing for the family.  Each of the relevant public authorities has the power to secure an effective investigation. The inquest mechanism in Northern Ireland has been particularly important in partially restoring public confidence in the rule of law.  These mechanisms for investigation remain available in Northern Ireland and the state needs to use them as part of due process for our clients and others who seek the truth. “

On behalf of Relatives For Justice, Mike Ritchie said:

“We have been proud to support Kathleen and her family in their long search for justice. Like so many other relatives, Kathleen has been living in a kind of limbo waiting for the state to fulfil its responsibilities by investigating Rosaleen’s murder and letting the family know what happened. It’s yet another case that shows how appalling are the British Government’s plans to halt investigations, inquests, and other judicial proceedings into legacy cases.   As the Council of Europe Commissioner of Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, said to British Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis yesterday the legacy proposals constitute:

an approach that would undermine human rights protections and … cut off avenues to justice for victims and their families, thus leading to impunity, cannot be the foundation on which … justice is built.’

“The case of Rosaleen O’Kane shows why proper investigations are of fundamental importance to families.”

The family are also interested in hearing from anyone who may have information relevant to the murder of their sister in North Belfast in 1976.

Please contact solicitor Patricia Coyle on 02890 278227 or Mike Ritchie of Relatives for Justice on 02890-627171.