Police failed massacre families
THERE WERE police failings in the investigation of the Ulster Volunteer Force attack on the Heights Bar in Loughinisland in 1994 but insufficient evidence of any RUC collusion, police ombudsman Al Hutchinson has found.
Six people were murdered and five seriously wounded when UVF gunmen walked into the bar and opened fire with assault rifles as the men were watching Ireland defeat Italy in the World Cup in New York on June 18th, 1994.
The Heights Bar had a mixed clientele. All six who died were Catholics, with one of the victims, Barney Green (87), one of the oldest to die in the Troubles.
Many of the Loughinisland families later complained of alleged RUC collusion with the UVF murder gang, prompting the ombudsman’s inquiry. Mr Hutchinson in his report released today found the police investigation “lacked effective leadership and investigative diligence and has failed the families of those killed and injured”.
He reported, however, that there was “insufficient evidence to support the view that these failures were as a result of a deliberate act by police to protect informants from the law”.
The families are due to hold a press conference in Belfast today expressing their dissatisfaction with the report. Mr Hutchinson acknowledged the families of those killed and injured in the attack still believed there was collusion. The families wanted their suspicions investigated that RUC informers knew the attack was planned and that police failed to carry out a proper investigation.
“I had a lengthy meeting with the families earlier this week, and I presented them with my findings,” said Mr Hutchinson.
“They still firmly believe that there was collusion. I acknowledge their belief and while there is reason to be suspicious over certain police actions, I consider there is insufficient evidence to establish that collusion took place,” he added.
“I listened to them very carefully and there are a number of issues which they want to discuss with me further and we will do that in the coming days,” he said.
A UVF attack was widely predicted after the Irish National Liberation Army carried out an attack on the Shankill in Belfast that resulted in the deaths of three leading loyalists, but no one suspected that the pub in the quiet Co Down village of Loughinisland would be one of the organisation’s revenge targets two nights later.
No one was convicted of the murders, although over the years 16 people were arrested, some a number of times.
The car used in the attack was found abandoned in a field in Crossgar, Co Down, the morning after the attack.
Almost seven weeks later, a holdall containing the clothing, weapons and ammunition believed used in the attack, along with a rifle, were also found.
Mr Hutchinson said the police failures “cumulatively indicate a lack of cohesive and focused effort over the years. The families have been failed by this intermittent focus and attention”.
He also referred to allegations that police protected informants, particularly people linked to the car used by the UVF. “Whilst I will neither confirm nor deny whether or not any individual was a police informant, I am satisfied that no suspects were afforded protection as informants,” said Mr Hutchinson.
“We found no evidence that the car was destroyed for any corrupt purpose or that its destruction was a collusive act,” he added.
* Records were missing.
* The car used by the UVF was improperly destroyed 10 months after the attack after lying outside a police station exposed to the elements.
* Police failed to investigate properly the link between the Loughinisland shootings and other terrorist attacks.
* Failures in the management of the murder incident room in the early stages and in the management of the computer system used by the investigation may also have resulted in the loss of evidential opportunities.