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January 22, 2007

Police Ombudsman: Operation Ballast - Public Statement

Monday, January 22, 2007

Operation Ballast: Public Statement.

The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has released the
findings of her three-and-a-half-year investigation into a
series of complaints about police conduct in relation to
the murder of Raymond McCord Junior in November 1997.

Mrs Nuala O'Loan has upheld a complaint from his father,
Raymond McCord, that over a number of years police acted in
such a way as to protect informants from being fully
accountable to the law.

An initial investigation into Mr McCord's complaints
revealed issues of concern in relation to a series of other
incidents - including murders, attempted murders and drug

As a result, the Police Ombudsman's investigation quickly
expanded to cover the period from 1991-2003. It looked at
one police informant in particular - Informant 1 - and at
his associates, many of whom were also police informants
and members of a UVF unit in North Belfast and

The investigation has proved the most complex ever
undertaken by the Police Ombudsman. More than 100 serving
and retired police officers were interviewed, 24 of them
'under caution.' Members of the public were also

Police computer systems were examined and more than 10,000
items of police documentation was recovered, including
material held within intelligence systems, on personal
records, in police journals, in crime files and from other
sources. Corroborating material was also recovered from a
number of other, non-police, "agencies."

The Police Ombudsman has identified that intelligence held
within the policing system, the majority of which has been
graded by police as a "reliable and probably true" and
which has been corroborated from other sources, which links
police informants to:

· The murders of ten people;

· 72 instances of other crime, including:

· Ten attempted murders;
· Ten "punishment" shootings;
· 13 punishment attacks;
· A bomb attack in Monaghan;
· 17 instances of drug dealing, and;
· Additional criminality, including criminal
damage, extortion and intimidation.

Police Ombudsman investigators have also identified less
significant and reliable intelligence which links Informant
1 and his associates to an additional five murders

During this period the Police Ombudsman has estimated that
payments of at least £79,840 were made to Informant 1,
which included a series of incentive payments (30.0 -

The Police Ombudsman investigation also established a
pattern of work by certain officers within Special Branch
designed to ensure that Informant 1 and his associates were
protected from the law.

In addition, she has also identified a series of instances
when they took steps to ensure that police informants who
had committed crime were protected from police officers
investigating those crimes and from other agencies within
the criminal justice system.

Informants were reportedly 'babysat' through interviews to
held them avoid incriminating themselves, false notes were
created and searches of houses to locate UVF arms and the
search of a UVF arms dump were blocked for no valid reason

In addition, misleading information was prepared for the
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and vital
intelligence likely to have assisted in the investigation
of serious crimes, including murder, was withheld from
police investigation teams.

The Police Ombudsman's Office has encountered a number of
difficulties during this investigation, including the fact
that a number of documents were either missing, lost or
destroyed. These included parts of murder files, decision
logs and intelligence documents. This general absence of
records has prevented senior officers from being held to
account. The Police Ombudsman is of the view that this was
not an oversight but was a deliberate strategy and had the
effect of avoiding proper accountability. (8.1-8.19 and

Mrs O'Loan has concluded that her investigation has
established collusion between certain officers within
Special Branch and a UVF unit in North Belfast and
Newtownabbey. (32.1- 32.5)

"It would be easy to blame the junior officers' conduct in
dealing with various informants and indeed they are not
blameless. However, they could not have operated as they
did without the knowledge and support at the highest levels
of the RUC and the PSNI," she said.

Mrs O'Loan said she believed a culture of subservience to
Special Branch had developed within the RUC which had
created a form of dysfunction.

"The effect of that dysfunction was that, whilst
undoubtedly Special Branch officers were effective in
preventing bombings, shootings and other attacks, some
informants were able to continue to engage in terrorist
activities, including murder, without the Criminal
Investigation Department having the ability to deal with
them for some of these offences."

Mrs O'Loan has said she believes the PSNI has made
significant changes and introduced new policies in relation
to its handling of informants. She said the PSNI have also
accepted all of the recommendations contained in her

"This has been a difficult and at times very sad
investigation, both to conduct and to report on. I am
satisfied that the PSNI have accepted the mistakes of the
past and put in place policies and procedures to help
ensure they will not happen in the future."

1. The Murder of Raymond McCord Junior (9.1-9.35)

Raymond McCord Junior was found beaten to death in
Ballyduff Quarry on 9 November 1997. Information held by
the police, and corroborated from a number of sources,
indicates that Informant 1, who was in prison at the time,
ordered his murder and that another man, who was on leave
from the prison, carried it out.

Informant 1 and his associates were eventually arrested for
the murder, questioned and released without charge.

The Police Ombudsman has established that there were a
number of failures with the murder investigation which may
have significantly reduced the possibility of anyone ever
being prosecuted for the crime. They include a failure to
seize a suspect's clothing from prison and the destruction
of exhibits, including the car believed to have been used
in the attack.

The Police Ombudsman found no evidence that police knew
what was going to happen to Mr McCord, nor that they could
have warned him or his family about the danger.

2. The Murder of Peter McTasney. (10.5 -10.16)

Peter McTasney was murdered at Bawnmore in Belfast on 24
February 1991.

Later that year, when police were interviewing suspects
about an attempted murder, which Informant 1 had told them
about and was believed to have been involved in, they
established that the gun used was the one used to kill Mr
McTasney and was linked to a series of attempted murders.

Informant 1 was arrested and interviewed a total of 19
times. His 'handlers' conducted the main interviews. One of
those handlers has said they 'babysat' him though the
interviews and that notes were completed which did not
reflect what happened in the interview. Informant I was
subsequently released without charge.

A combined file for the murder of Mr McTasney and the
earlier attempted murder was prepared for the Director of
Public Prosecutions (DPP). Two men were subsequently
convicted. Special Branch, with the agreement of a Deputy
Assistant Chief Constable, did not disclose to the DPP the
involvement of a police agent.

3. The Murder of Sharon McKenna. (13.1 - 13.49)

Sharon McKenna was shot dead on January 17 1993.

A Detective Sergeant and a Detective Constable have both
said Informant 1 admitted to them being one of the gunmen
involved in the murder. Separate police documentation from
the time also records 'high grade,' information that
Informant 1 was involved.

Authorisation was given by Special Branch to arrest
Informant 1. He was arrested, detained for six days, and
interviewed 37 times. Some of those interviews were
conducted by his 'handler'. Another of those officers
present has told Police Ombudsman investigators he 'felt
like a gooseberry' sitting in on the interviews, as he knew
Informant 1 was a police 'source' and would say nothing of
relevance in front of him. Informant 1 was subsequently
released without charge.

No one has ever been charged with the murder.

In the weeks which followed, Informant 1's monthly retainer
was increased from £100 a month to £160, despite the fact
that he was a main suspect for the murder.

4. The Murder of Sean McParland (14.1- 14.17)

Sean McParland was shot on 17 February 1994 and died later
from his injuries.

Police Ombudsman investigators have seen information which
indicated that two days before the murder, police received
information from an informant that someone was to be killed
the next morning. They mounted a response at the relevant
time and place during which they saw Informant 1.

Later that day they received information that Informant 1
had been involved in the planned attack but that it was
called off when police were seen in the area. Mr McParland
was shot the following day.

Police Ombudsman investigators have seen additional
information in which Informant 1 names another police
informant as having carried out the murder. He also admits
to having had an involvement himself.

5,6 The Murders of Gary Convie and Eamon Fox (15.1-15.11)

Gary Convie and Eamon Fox were shot dead on a building site
in Belfast on 17 May 1994.

Informant 1 was a suspect for the murder and was arrested.

The gunman who carried out the murders was said to have a
'goatee' beard. Informant 1 when arrested had a 'goatee'
beard but was allowed to shave it off while in custody. No
identity parade was held. He was released without charge.

7. The Murder of Gerard Brady. (16.1-16.3)

Gerard Brady was shot on 17 June 1994. Police have
intelligence which links Informant I and another police
informant to this murder. Ballistic tests have also linked
the gun used to Informant 1 and other police informants.

8. The Murder of John Harbinson. (18.1-18.28)

Mr Harbinson was beaten to death on 18 May 1997.

Special Branch had a significant amount of high-grade
intelligence about the four main suspects for this murder,
including Informant 1. They did not pass this information
on to the police officers investigating the murder.

Special Branch also had information that those who had
carried out the murder had fled to a location in
Ballyhalbert where they were 'safely ensconced.' Again,
they did not pass this information on to their colleagues.
Forensic opportunities were lost.


Police Ombudsman investigators have seen information which
links Informant 1 to the murders of Thomas Sheppard in
March 1996 (17.1-17.5) and Thomas English in October 2000.
(19.1- 19.5)

Terrorism in the Republic (24.1- 24.20)

Informant 1 gave police information about a planned bomb
attack in Dublin and helped them ensure the plan was
aborted. Special Branch officers were instructed not to
record the details of this planned attack.

Informant 1 later gave police information about another
'high profile' attack on a republican target and told them
he had received the explosives to carry it out. The police
made safe the explosives and returned them to him, but did
not mount an operation to see what the terrorists had
planned or to arrest them.

Within two weeks there was a bomb attack on the Sinn Fein
offices in Monaghan. Intelligence held by police implicates
police informants, including Informant 1. None of this
information was passed to the Garda.

Attack on Bar in Portadown (26.1 - 26.14)

Special Branch received detailed intelligence from a police
informant of a planned UVF attack on a bar in Portadown.
They passed on limited information to local police. Only
good policing in the area allowed those responsible to be

Special Branch Block Searches. (23.1-13.14)

Documentation indicates that police were provided with the
addresses of people who had UVF weapons, including
Informant 1, and the location of an alleged UVF arms dump.
Special Branch blocked the searches of some of these

Within weeks of these searches having been blocked, there
is information that Informant 1 and his associates were
again linked to murder and attempted murder.

Drug Dealing (27.1- 27.19)

The Police Ombudsman has obtained around 70 separate
intelligence reports held by police implicating Informant 1
in 17 instances of drug dealing in an area covering North
Belfast and Larne. The material also links him to
associated 'punishment' attacks. Despite this, his only
conviction has been for the possession of drugs.


The numbering in brackets above relates to paragraphs
within the Public Statement.

The full Public Statement can be found on our website at

New Cathedral Buildings
St Anne's Square,
11 Church Street, Belfast
T: 084 5601 2931
T: 028 9082 8600
F: 028 9082 8659

© 2004 biznet

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