COLLUSION; Probe into 15 loyalist murders finds the RUC's Special Branch guilty of..
Byline: By James Lyons James Lyons can refer to:
POLICE in Northern Ireland Northern Ireland: see Ireland, Northern.
Part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland occupying the northeastern portion of the island of Ireland. Area: 5,461 sq mi (14,144 sq km). Population (2001): 1,685,267. protected loyalist paramilitaries who murdered up to 15 people, a damning probe said yesterday.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary's Special Branch shielded informers who were members of a Belfast UVF UVF Ulster Volunteer Force
UVF St Lucia, Saint Lucia - Hewanorra (Airport Code) gang and allowed them to continue their killing spree during the 1990s, it was claimed.
Their handlers even "baby-sat" the men through questioning to stop them incriminating themselves, Northern Ireland's police watchdog found.
Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's three-year, pounds 2million probe was triggered by the persistence of Raymond McCord.
He complained after police failed to solve the murder of his son Raymond, whose badly beaten body was found dumped at a quarry near Belfast in November 1997.
The 22-year-old Protestant ex- RAF man was caught up in a UVF drug-smuggling operation.
His dad believed an informer Informer
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old libertine ravishes his daughter Beatrice. [Br. Lit. from a gang based in the north of the city was involved and was protected by Special Branch.
He said yesterday: "To have lost a son at the hands of brutal killers was a tragedy but to have now been informed that those killers were protected by the police is heartbreaking for us."
His complaint triggered the most complex probe ever launched by the province's policing watchdog.
More than 100 serving and retired officers were interviewed, 24 of them under caution.
Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the RUC's chief constable before the force was replaced by the Police Service of Northern Ireland The Police Service of Northern Ireland (Irish: Seirbhís Póilíneachta Thuaisceart Éireann) is the police service that covers Northern Ireland. in 2001, was among those questioned.
He headed Special Branch before his promotion in 1996.
Some senior Special Branch officers refused to cooperate.
Police computers were examined and 10,000 documents seized.
Inquires centred on leading loyalist Mark Haddock, currently serving 10 years for assault.
Haddock, named as a UVF killer in the Irish parliament 15 months ago, was paid almost pounds 80,000 as an informer.
The watchdog's inquiry found evidence he had ordered McCord's execution.
He and his henchmen were implicated in 72 crimes, including nine other murders, 10 attempted murders, 10 punishment shootings, 13 punishment attacks and a bombing in the Irish Republic.
There was also intelligence pointing towards their involvement in a further five murders.
O'Loan called for 10 murder cases to be reopened but said evidence needed to convict officers for collusion had been destroyed.
She said they had support "at the highest levels" of the service.
Collusion may have taken place across the province, she said.
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said: "The failings set out in this report, serious as they were, lie in the past and shouldn't cloud our view of policing today."
A spokesman for Tony Blair said the "deeply disturbing" findings were "a matter for profound regret and the Prime Minister shares that regret".
The report comes at a crucial time in the peace process.
Sinn Fein will hold a special conference this weekend to finally back the new Police Service of Northern Ireland and pave the way for the restoration of power sharing.
The Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers' Association vigorously denied O'Loan's allegations as unfounded and incapable of substantiation.
But Protestant political groups, who traditionally back the police, criticised Special Branch.
Ulster Unionist Fred Cobain said: "The allegations paint a picture that falls far short of the integrity and professional ethics professional ethics,
n the rules governing the conduct, transactions, and relationships within a profession and among its publics.
professional ethics liability,
n 1. citizens expect of police officers."
And the Progressive Unionist Party
AGONY: Raymond McCord snr' VICTIM: Raymond McCord jnr