RUC destroyed vital evidence in shoot-to-kill operation

RUC destroyed vital evidence in shoot-to-kill operation

May 20th 2003

At a preliminary inquest hearing today in Dungannon into the killings
of 4 men at Clonoe, 3 men at Coagh, both by the SAS, and 76 year-old
pensioner Roseanne Mallon at Dungannon also by loyalists, a detective
from PSNI told the court that vital documents relating to the SAS
killings at Coagh had been destroyed.

During the proceedings, which are to determine the relevance of
material requested by families and their lawyers that will eventually
allow the inquests to being proper, a Police representative, Mr. Lynas,
told the Coroner that ‘original notes of question and answer sessions
with soldiers involved in the Coagh killings, and some forensic notes,
and other statements had been destroyed.’

Coroner Roger McLarnon
told the court that the documents were ‘central to the court’ and that
this was ‘clearly unsatisfactory’. The Coroner asked ‘when had these
been destroyed’ and ‘under what authority’? The court was told that
this occurred in 1996.

It was also revealed
that in relation to the Coagh killings that no official statements had
been taken of soldiers and that only question and answer sessions took

The reason offered to the court for the destruction of the documents
was that while in Gough Barracks they had been stored in an area which
had been contaminated by asbestos dust and therefore in the interests
of Health & Safety had to be destroyed.

The Coroner had asked ‘would it have been proper to seal the material
and make copies?’ and asked that the ‘principle parties that took these
decisions clarify for the court why this had not occurred.’

Responding to the claims a Relatives for Justice spokesperson said:
‘The central issues in all of these cases are that the MOD and the PSNI
are withholding vital material both from the Coroner and the families’
legal teams. This has been ongoing for just over a year. The claims
today have moved beyond previous claims of public interest and are both
bold and breathtaking. They are also somewhat convenient. To at this
stage introduce or offer this excuse is an insult to our intelligence.
Why when these documents were first sought over a year ago did this
claim not arise, but yet it now is revealed when possibly the Coroner
might seek and rule that they are relevant to inquests?

It is also incredible that no official statements were taken of the SAS
members responsible for the killings. We are determined to get to the
bottom of these matters and use every legal and civil mechanism
available in our collective quest for truth and justice in these
cases.’ ENDS