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June 01, 2007

Wright Inquiry Hit by Missing Papers

News about Ireland & the Irish

TE 06/01/07 Wright Murder Inquiry Hit By Missing Papers
IH 05/30/07 Probe Into Jail Killing Begins Hearing Testimony
BT 05/30/07 Wright Inquiry Frustrates Finucane Family


Wright Murder Inquiry Hit By Missing Papers

By Tom Peterkin, Ireland Correspondent
Last Updated: 3:15am BST 31/05/2007

An investigation into the murder of the loyalist terrorist Billy
'King Rat' Wright has been hampered by lost or destroyed
documents, it was claimed yesterday.

The first day of public hearings in a long-awaited inquiry into
allegations of state collusion surrounding the killing of Wright
heard claims that thousands of prison documents had been lost or
deliberately destroyed.

In 2001 the British and Irish governments appointed the Canadian
judge Peter Cory to investigate allegations that the security
forces colluded with paramilitaries in Northern Ireland.

Judge Cory recommended that the Government set up inquiries into
the murder of Wright and three other controversial killings.

The others deal with the deaths of: Rosemary Nelson, a Catholic
solicitor murdered by loyalists as she drove away from her house
in Lurgan in 1999; Pat Finucane, a solicitor mainly representing
nationalists who was shot by loyalists in front of his wife and
children in 1999 and Robert Hamill, a Catholic who was attacked
by a loyalist mob in Portadown in 1997.

Wright, 37, was ambushed in December 1997 by dissident
republicans inside the Maze jail.

It has long been alleged that the gunmen were assisted by the
authorities, because Wright, who has been linked to at least a
dozen murders, was seen as a threat to the peace process. Wright
formed and led the Loyalist Volunteer Force after a bitter fall
out with the Ulster Volunteer Force.

Wright was shot dead by three Irish National Liberation Army men
in the back of a prison van.

The gunmen squeezed through a hole in the security fencing and
climbed over a roof before carrying out the killing.

His father David Wright, who attended yesterday's hearing, has
demanded to know how the gunmen were able to get to his son.

The inquest into his death found that no one was in the
observation tower overlooking the area where the attack happened.
It was also found that surveillance cameras were not working.

At Banbridge courthouse, Co Down, Wright's lawyer claimed that
paramilitaries "reigned supreme" in the prison and searching and
security had been compromised.

He alleged that this occurred "all at the knowledge, connivance
and acquiescence of the upper echelons of the Prison Service and
political establishment".

Mr Kane said he was astounded that two guns and ammunition had
been available within such a high security facility.

He went on to claim that "thousands of prison documents and
journals have been deliberately destroyed or disappeared".

Derek Batchelor QC, the senior counsel for the inquiry, also
claimed that there were gaps in documents supplied by the prison
authorities and security service.

At the end of his opening submission, Mr Kane referred to a
remark made by Sir Hugh Annesley, the former Royal Ulster
Constabulary chief constable.

Just before the murder, Sir Hugh was quoted as saying: "It's just
a question of who gets to the b***** first - us, the IRA or the
UVF. You can take your pick."

The inquiry, which is expected to last a year, continues.


Probe Into Jail Killing Of Top Northern Ireland Militant Begins
Hearing Testimony

The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 30, 2007

DUBLIN, Ireland: A long-delayed investigation into the 1997
prison assassination of a Northern Ireland paramilitary commander
began hearing testimony Wednesday - 2 1/2 years after Britain
authorized the inquiry.

The Dec. 27, 1997, killing of Billy "King Rat" Wright, founder
and leader of a ruthless Protestant gang called the Loyalist
Volunteer Force, inspired a wave of retaliatory killings of
Catholics - but deprived the group of its talisman and spurred
the group's 1998 cease-fire.

Wright's family, Protestant politicians and some civil rights
activists have accused British authorities of conspiring to get
Wright killed because he represented a threat to peacemaking.

In April 2004, Britain authorized judicial inquiries into three
of Northern Ireland's most controversial killings, all of which
involved allegations of involvement by members of British
security forces. But the investigation into Wright's death, the
1999 killing of Catholic lawyer Rosemary Nelson and the 1997
Protestant mob beating of Catholic civilian Robert Hamill, have
all become mired in legal and political disputes.

The Scottish judge leading the Wright inquiry, Lord Ranald
MacLean, has repeatedly delayed the start of public hearings
citing his difficulties in getting cooperation from British
government agencies in Northern Ireland.

MacLean and his deputy fact-finders - retired Anglican bishop
John Oliver and University of London prisons expert Andrew Coyle
- are expected to spend the next five weeks hearing witness and
expert testimony in Banbridge Courthouse southwest of Belfast.

Testimony began Wednesday with Richard English, a politics
professor at Queen's University of Belfast, who answered
questions on the political and security context surrounding
Wright's killing.

Imprisoned members of an anti-Protestant paramilitary group, the
Irish National Liberation Army, shot Wright dead using a smuggled
handgun as he was being escorted by prison guards to a meeting
with his girlfriend.

The nearest prison watchtower was unstaffed at the time, which
helped the INLA hit squad to climb onto a roof and jump into a
courtyard undetected. Surveillance cameras in the area also were
not working.

The INLA said its members had plotted the killing on their own in
revenge for Wright's terror campaign against Catholics. But
Wright's family insist prison authorities knew about the plan.

Wright's killing triggered a wave of bloodshed that claimed 10
more lives: eight Catholic civilians and two Protestant
paramilitary members.

Wright, who boasted of his role in killing dozens of Catholics,
founded the Loyalist Volunteer Force to oppose the cease-fire
being observed by other Protestant paramilitary groups in
Northern Ireland. But the LVF ceased paramilitary activity six
months after his death and its members turned to criminal
racketeering and drugs trafficking.


Wright Inquiry Frustrates Finucane Family

[Published: Wednesday 30, May 2007 - 11:43]
By Chris Thornton

The family of Pat Finucane said today that it was frustrating to
see the start of Northern Ireland's first public inquiry into
collusion when the murdered solicitor's case remains in limbo.

The solicitor's youngest son, John, spoke as the Billy Wright
Inquiry was due to begin taking evidence in public at Banbridge
Court House this morning, following two High Court battles and
the disappearance of key evidence.

Hearings begin with evidence from Richard English, a Queen's
University professor who will discuss the political background to
the LVF leader's murder. Dozens of witnesses are due to follow
him. The examination of the Wright killing is the first of four
collusion inquiries to proceed to full hearings, almost 10 years
after the Portadown loyalist was shot in prison.

Retired Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory recommended
public hearings into the four cases back in 2003.

Inquiries into the murders of solicitor Rosemary Nelson and
Portadown dad Robert Hamill have formally opened and hearings are
pending, but the Government has so far failed to appoint a
tribunal to start work on the 1989 Finucane murder.

"Considering that the recommendations for these inquiries were
all made at the same time, it is very frustrating that there is
no prospect of an inquiry into my father's case on the horizon,"
said John Finucane.

"We're desperate to be involved in an inquiry and we hope that
the British Government will take steps to proceed."

The Finucane family and the Government are in a stand-off about
the terms for the inquiry. The family objects to the use of the
Inquiries Act, a controversial law that was rushed through
Parliament two years ago to be applied to the Finucane case.

"We are still not in a position to endorse a flawed inquiry,"
John Finucane said. "We're still very much in the dark about what
the Government intends to do."

The Inquiries Act gives ministers greater powers over secrecy and
also allows the Secretary of State to stop an inquiry at any
stage. Critics - including Justice Cory - say that hampers the
independence of an inquiry.

c Belfast Telegraph

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