The Police Ombudsman produced a 157 page report. It wasn’t until page 85 that he got around to the police investigation.
After a detailed discussion, his conclusions were that there were “fundamental failings” in the investigation. He believes that persons A,M,K,I and B , whose names were given to the investigating team as suspects by Special Branch the day following the murders, should have been immediately arrested, because there was “strong circumstantial evidence”. That would have made for interesting interviewing. “Well, suspect K, we think you were responsible for the murders, because Special Branch say so”. One can imagine K’s response , the attitude of his solicitor and the view of the custody sergeant. Dr Maguire’s case is that there was a “compelling intelligence picture”, which demanded their arrests. This is , of course, the stuff of fantasy. No SIO would have authorised arrests in those circumstances.
He next states that when the suspects were ‘belatedly arrested’ , there was a failure to properly examine one person’s alibi , K , an inconsistent approach to the collection of forensic samples and an inadequate investigation into the ownership of the Triumph Acclaim , which he asserts was “used by those responsible for the murders”.
Lets consider the evidence in the case. Neither person who entered the bar could be identified because they were masked. There was nothing found in the bar to connect any person to the shooting, despite rigorous forensic examination of the scene.
The getaway car has been described as a red Triumph Acclaim or Honda Accord. No VRM was reported. A red Triumph Acclaim was found the following morning at Listooder Road. Nothing in the car provided any evidential opportunities and there was nothing to connect it to the murder scene. There is criticism that the surrounding area should have been examined for foot prints and that the foot wear of suspects might have matched soil samples from the scene. Those two points are well made, except that , again, who would have been arrested and what would the basis for the arrest have been?
The investigation into the possession of the suspect car at the material time was badly handled. Its movements were never adequately traced.
A blanket found on a road has not been fully examined.
So, in the immediate aftermath of the murders, the SIO had no evidence to arrest any person for the murders. Even if person O,P,Q, R or S had been suspected of possession of the car, where would that have led, given the usual negative response in interview?
A subsequent find, in August 1994 of a bag containing clothing provided strong supporting evidence that the boiler suits had been in contact with the front passenger seat and the rear seat of the Acclaim. K’s hair sample was a microscopic match with a hair recovered from the holdall. It is not clear what happened to that evidence, although hair matching has been recently questioned as a forensic tool. K’s alibi was not properly tested.
The VZ 58 rifle was not found until August 1994 , separately from the bag. It can be demonstrated that it was the murder weapon. The rifle cannot be connected to any suspect. It could be connected to the Acclaim.
Let us now assume that K was the best suspect and that he was arrested. In interview police would have asked him about his movements and challenged his alibi. They would have pointed to the hair match. It is not clear whether or not any DNA was available. Let’s assume it was. The police case, working backwards would be that his hair and DNA was found in a bag, along with overalls, which could be linked to the seats of the Acclaim which might have been the getaway car. The murder weapon was found close by and can be connected to the Acclaim. K remains silent, as is his right. That’s the height of the case.
Would that provide a reasonable prospect of success for a prosecution for murder?
Finally, Dr Maguire accepts that the investigation “categorised in excess of one hundred people as suspects”. Make of that what you will, Dear Reader.