Northern Ireland

Patrick Sullivan: Police ombudsman finds failures in RUC investigation

Patrick Sullivan Image copyright Sullivan family pic
Image caption Patrick Sullivan, a 25-year-old west Belfast republican, was stabbed to death after confronting anti-social behaviour in the Divis area of the city in 1992

Police failed to investigate properly the killing of a Belfast man who was stabbed to death 22 years ago, a police ombudsman's investigation has found.

Patrick Sullivan, a republican, was killed after confronting anti-social behaviour in west Belfast in 1992.

The police ombudsman has identified a number of failings in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) investigation.

These included failing to investigate blood found at the scene and making no attempt to trace potential witnesses.

Foreign Legion

Mr Sullivan, 25, was a member of the republican splinter group, the Irish People's Liberation Organisation (IPLO).

The west Belfast resident also spent some time serving with the French Foreign Legion before returning to west Belfast.

Image copyright Sullivan family pic
Image caption Patrick Sullivan spent some time serving with the French Foreign Legion before he returned home to west Belfast

He was stabbed in the neck and back in the February 1992 attack and died from his injuries.

Another west Belfast man was later convicted of his manslaughter but the Sullivan family have always believed more than one attacker was involved.


They lodged a complaint about the RUC's handling of the case with the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and have now welcomed the watchdog's findings.

In a statement issued through their solicitor, they said they were "outraged that key investigative lines of inquiry were not adequately pursued, including failures on forensics witnesses and retention of exhibits".

The victim's brother, James Sullivan, said they wanted "justice" for their brother and felt vindicated by the ombudsman's report.

"It's taken 22 years to get here," he said. "It's been a long time but it's been worth it."

Image caption The victim's brother James Sullivan welcomed the police ombudman's findings and said the family now intended to bring a civil legal action

The police ombudsman's investigation identified a "failure to follow evidential lines of enquiry related to blood samples found at the scene, failure to properly challenge inconsistencies in accounts, and no evidence of attempts to trace potential witnesses".

Mr Sullivan's clothes also went missing after the initial RUC inquiry and could not be located.

'Unjustified failings'

Five retired RUC officers were contacted by the police ombudman's office, as part of the watchdog's investigation.

Two of the five former officers gave statements. None of them accepted responsibility for any failings in the RUC inquiry.

In a statement, a spokesman for the police ombudman said "no police criminality was identified, and as all officers attached to the original investigation are now retired no misconduct action can be considered".

The victim's family statement said they now intend to "sue for damages for the unjustified failings in the original RUC investigation".

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