Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson last night denied that he had been asked to delay publishing a report into one of the worst UVF atrocities of the Troubles to facilitate talks over loyalist decommissioning.
However, South Down MP Eddie McGrady yesterday warned against any government attempt to downgrade a police investigation into the UVF murder of six men in Loughinisland as a trade-off in exchange for loyalist decommissioning.
Yesterday families of the six men murdered in the June 1994 massacre raised concerns that the PSNI had downgraded the murder inves- tigation to the Historic Enquiries Team (HET) just days before UVF decommissioning.
The Loughinisland families demanded to know if this week’s decision to treat the murder investigations as “cold cases’ was connected to any decommissioning deal with the UVF.
The PSNI rejected the claim and insisted its murder investigation was still ongoing.
Mr McGrady said he was concerned that a year-long delay in the publication of a police ombudsman’s report into the Loughinisland murders was “politically convenient” to allow a decommis- sioning deal.
Mr McGrady said that he had been informed by the ombudsman in June 2008 that a “substantive” investigation into Loughinisland had been completed and that its report would be published later that summer.
However, nearly a year later the ombudsman has informed him that the investigation is still incomplete.
“My fear that this delay by the ombudsman’s office was politically convenient in the circumstances has been heightened with the announcement that the investigation is to become a ‘cold case’ under the historical investigations team, on the day that the UVF appear to have committed to decommissioning.
However, a spokesman for the ombudsman’s office denied that there had been “any contact or political interference of any nature from any source and the office remains completely independent in these matters”.
“The police ombudsman is determined to conclude on this grave matter as expeditiously as possible and issue a statement on his findings,” the spokesman said.
Irish News: NEWS: MP fears Loughinisland case traded for UVF guns
I would share McGrady's suspiscion at the timing of this announcement but for very different reasons. Loyalist decommissioning provides a suitable diversion to obscure the Loughinsland issue; which is primarily one of collusion-led mass-murder. They will truthfully deny that a deal was done to secure decommissioning as no such deal would have been necessary and the people will assume that they are lying and think little more of it. The reason that they want to bury Loughinisland is primarily because of the level of collusion involved and the fact that the likes of Mark Haddock are still alive.