Loughinisland, the strange case of K

Who is person K, referred to in the PONI report ?

His family live between Clough and Dundrum. He is related to Delbert Watson who was convicted of the murder of Jack Kielty in Dundrum in January 1988. Also convicted of that murder were David Curlett and William Bell, the driver of the getaway car. Doreen Watson, whose husband had been murdered by the IRA , sister of Delbert , was convicted of manslaughter.

K , according to Maguire, is a heavily traced terrorist. He has been linked to a conspiracy to murder Peter McCarthy  and the attempted murder of John Henry Smyth. He is alleged to have been involved in the murder of Peter McCormack in Kilcoo on 19 November 1992.

Police told Maguire that he was part of a UVF unit.

Dear Reader, you might pause here to wonder, if the RUC Special Branch, inter alia , was involved in collusion with terrorists, why it would divulge this information to the PONI. I leave that with you.

K and others were identified by Special Branch  to the Loughinisland MIT on the morning after the murders, as potential suspects.

K was arrested and interviewed several times on 18 July 1994. He provided an alibi for the time of the shootings. He said that he was in the Clough Inn with his girlfriend.

This alibi was not properly investigated, says Maguire . It is hard to see what the police could have done , two years later, to establish the truth of the alibi.

Maguire makes a mistake when he says at paragraph 7.169 that K’s hair sample was obtained and found to be a ‘microscopic match ‘ to a hair recovered from a holdall. The bag had not been found at this point.

The holdall was  not found until  4 August 1994. A hair found therein was examined and K was arrested again on 22 August  and the match was made. Caution should be exercised re hair matching after the FBI scandal regarding the science of hair matching.

However, police had a holdall in which they had found, inter alia,  the hair and some overalls. The overalls showed a link with the seats of a Triumph Acclaim car found in a field and bearing a resemblance to the getaway car. Close by was found the VZ58 rifle which was the murder weapon. Fibres from the rifle matched fibres recovered from the Triumph Acclaim.

It is tolerably clear that the Acclaim was the getaway car.

Also, found on a roadway , was a blanket. It has not been properly examined.

I do not know if K has a criminal record, or other matters which might be used as bad character.

I do not know if the hair provided DNA evidence to link K to the bag.

In any event, it is hard to understand why K has not been charged in connection with the murders.

Maguire provides no explanation.

Additionally he makes no case that K was in any way protected, especially by Special Branch. If there was “collusion” as widely defined by Maguire , one might have expected Special Branch to have with held information in respect of K. Instead, the morning after the murders, they tell the MIT about K. K is , one might have thought, a prime suspect.

Maguire makes no criticism of the rigour of the initial investigation.

What is always absent from these reports is the general context.

Viewed as a homicide in leafy Surrey, I’m sure there are points to be made. Northern Ireland was a different environment, with the police overwhelmed by terrorist  crime.

But the question remains.

Who is K and is he a State agent?

That, more than grandstanding by Maguire , would be a fact that the relatives of Loughinisland would prefer to know.

 

Advertisements

Loughinisland, behind the hype

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.