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April 13, 2008

Nelson Murder Inquiry to Begin

Nelson Murder Inquiry To Begin

Last Updated: 13/04/2008 08:18

British intelligence officers, police chiefs and top civil servants
will be questioned at a public inquiry into the murder of solicitor
Rosemary Nelson set to open in Belfast.

The public inquiry follows a 2004 report on her case by Canadian
judge Peter Cory
The public inquiry follows a 2004 report on her case by Canadian
judge Peter Cory

Nine years after the 40-year-old was killed in a loyalist car bomb
attack, the inquiry will begin its public hearings on Tuesday to
determine if the authorities had a role in her murder.

Today a former United Nations official who had warned of the dangers
facing the mother-of-three before her death, described her as a
fearless solicitor who took on controversial cases others were afraid
to touch.

Former UN investigator Param Cumaraswamy said: “I welcome the
inquiry. The perpetrators of that tragic brutal murder of Rosemary
Nelson on March 15th, 1999 must be identified and brought to justice.

“I trust that the process of this inquiry will leave no stones
unturned to seek the truth.”

The Public Inquiry opens on Tuesday and will be led by Sir Michael
Morland, a retired Judge of the High Court of England and Wales.

It can investigate the conduct of MI5, the Royal Ulster Constabulary
(RUC), the British army and the Northern Ireland Office.

But early estimates suggest its work could take at least two years as
it attempts to unravel a case with a long and troubled history.

In 1998 Param Cumaraswamy complained to the UN in Geneva and to the
British government having met Mrs Nelson and heard her claims of RUC

Mrs Nelson made the same allegations at a special hearing in the
United States congress in Washington and there were fears her case
resembled that of solicitor Pat Finucane, shot dead by loyalists 10
years earlier in 1989.

Both lawyers represented republican suspects and both said they later
faced threats from the security forces and from loyalist

Ms Nelson ran her own small legal practice in Lurgan, Co Armagh, a
town divided along sectarian lines and based near Portadown, home of
the Drumcree parades flashpoint.

Most of her work involved routine legal business, but she also
accepted a number of controversial cases which put her under the

Ms Nelson represented leading republican Colin Duffy and overturned
his conviction for murdering a soldier after it emerged a crucial
police witness was a loyalist paramilitary.

She also represented the family of Robert Hamill - a Catholic kicked
to death by a loyalist mob while RUC officers were nearby.

But it was Ms Nelson’s role as solicitor to the Garvaghy Road
Residents’ Coalition against Orange Order parades that attracted most

By the late 1990s the local marching dispute at Drumcree had
escalated to become a focus for mass protest and murderous violence.

Ms Nelson told relatives and friends she received a catalogue of
threats, but she found it difficult to believe she would be killed
for doing her job.

The public inquiry follows a 2004 report on her case by Canadian
judge Peter Cory, which gave a chilling insight into Mrs Nelson’s

Judge Cory wrote: “Rosemary Nelson’s 10-year-old son took a call at
home and when he gave the phone to his mother the caller said: You’re
dead, you’ll be shot.”

He added: “She had been shopping in a local food market when she
noticed that she was being followed around the store by a large man.

“At one point, when other shoppers were not in the vicinity, this man
came up to her and told her that ‘if she didn’t stop representing IRA
scum, she would be dead’.”

Judge Cory said 11 of Ms Nelson’s clients claimed RUC officers
threatened her.

One is alleged to have said: “You’re going to die when you get out.
And tell Rosemary she’s going to die.”

The police have always denied the claims, which they argue have been
investigated by the then RUC and the Metropolitan police.

On the day she was killed Mrs Nelson drove from her home at around
12.40pm. She braked at a junction opposite Tannaghmore Primary School
where her daughter was a pupil.

Police later said a mercury tilt switch in the bomb under her car
detonated the device. An explosion ripped through her silver BMW.

Friends and relatives ran to Ms Nelson’s aid and one of her sisters
held her hand as she lay fatally wounded in the wreckage.

In the outrage sparked by her murder, the authorities resisted calls
for the RUC to be frozen out of the subsequent investigation.

Four years later the murder hunt led by a senior officer from
England, but which included RUC officers, ended without charging
anyone over the killing.

Approximately ú15 million has been spent on the Nelson case so far.
Security chiefs and a number of senior politicians question the role
of expensive public inquiries, while other murders from the Troubles
remain unsolved.

But Param Cumaraswamy today argued no-one could put a price on
justice. “While I appreciate taxpayers’ apprehension of the high cost
of such a public inquiry, such cost should not be a barrier for the
pursuit of truth and justice which are priceless human values,” he

“Otherwise impunity will flourish and erode the fabric of society.”

⌐ 2008
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