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BAGGOTT SORRY OVER M*GURK'S COMMENTS; PSNI chief still disputes report.

Byline: DAVID YOUNG

THE chief constable has spoken of his regret and sadness that his stance on the McGurk's Bar bombing hurt the bereaved families.

But Matt Baggott said he stood by his decision not to accept criticisms of the detectives who investigated the 1971 atrocity outlined in a report by Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson.

The probe found detectives adopted an "investigative bias" by claiming the attack was committed by republicans when in fact loyalists were to blame.

Relatives of the 15 dead reacted furiously when Baggott refused to agree with that finding and have threatened to take legal action against him.

The police chief, who has insisted there is not enough evidence to prove any bias existed, said the episode had saddened him.

He added: "Whatever I think about this is nothing to the hurt those folk have been through.

"But I couldn't agree. I can't, with all integrity, agree to something when I can't see how that judgment's been made or when there's conflicting evidence in there.

"I am not sure there was a way of presenting that that would have lessened people's hurt.

"So I do regret the fact that people have been hurt."

The Belfast bombing was carried out by the UVF but had initially been presented by the RUC as an accidental "own goal" by the IRA. This prompted speculation the dead may have included IRA members who were carrying the device.

The bereaved families welcomed the ombudsman's report as delivering the vindication they demanded, but claimed Baggott's response has only added to their grief.

The police chief has also given his reaction to the wider problems that have beset the ombudsman's office, prompting Al Hutchinson to tender his resignation early.

A review by the Criminal Justice Inspection group found the watchdog had lost the trust of senior colleagues.

Baggott said the problems are not "insurmountable".

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SADNESS 3 Baggott HORROR J Rescuers dig for survivors after McGurk's Bar bombing
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 4, 2011
Words:326
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