Roseann Mallon: 'No evidence of collusion' in Dungannon murder
An inquest has found no evidence of collusion into the 1994 loyalist murder of Dungannon pensioner Roseann Mallon.
Ms Mallon, 76, died from after being shot through the window of her sister-in-law's Cullenrammer Road home on the evening of 8 May 1994.
A day later the Mid-Ulster Brigade of the UVF claimed responsibility
Suggestions of state collusion in the killing have persisted ever since.
Three men, including leading loyalist Billy Wright, were arrested in connection with the murder but no charges were brought.
At the time two boys gave statements to the police that they had seen army type packs and guns in an old mill the day before the killing.
But the court heard this was a result of the presence of a civilian hunter, whose uncle owned the mill. He said he had spoken to the boys.
Ms Mallon had been sitting in her sister-in-law's house between 22.30 BST and midnight when she was shot dead.
Ms Mallon, who suffered with arthritis, was hit multiple times when gunmen from the outlawed UVF indiscriminately opened fire on her sister's bungalow.
The UVF said it was targeting two of Ms Mallon's nephews, Christopher Mallon - who was not home at the time - and Martin Mallon, who lived half-a-mile away.
Both were involved with the republican movement.
The inquest heard that security forces had installed two cameras in the area to monitor the two men and an RUC Special Branch (SB) surveillance camera was found in a field adjacent to the home a short time later.
It was being used to monitor an adjacent engineering works but footage from the camera was not made available to investigators.
The inquest heard evidence that the cameras were monitored by a soldier to establish daytime patterns, but were turned off at night to preserve battery life - and only showed the front of the house.
Presiding coroner Lord Justice Weir questioned why RUC Special Branch had not handed over footage from the camera to the police investigating team led by Detective Chief Inspector Kenneth McFarland.
"This was, to say the least, deeply unsatisfactory," Justice Weir said.
"Clearly a decision was taken at a senior level in Special Branch not to share the video material or its existence with Mr McFarland who was a policeman of senior rank charged with the investigation of the most serious crime of murder."
'Force within a force'
In his findings, Lord Justice Weir mentioned evidence given by Mr McFarland to the inquest in which the retired officer had described Special Branch as "a force within a force", and the officer added "if Special Branch thought you didn't need to know you didn't know".
Five months after the murder of Ms Mallon, Special Branch handed over a list of car registrations that had been observed on the road that day, but there was a "discrepancy" between that list and those cars on the video footage, the inquest heard.
Lord Justice Weir added of the decision not to hand the tape to the murder investigation: "It is difficult to understand and has not been explained."
"I simply do not know what the practical effect of all or any of these matters may have been," he said.
"Certainly, taken cumulatively, they do not inspire any feeling of confidence in the way in which the police investigation was conducted or the materials gathered in the course of it preserved so as to be available to the inquest or, perhaps, to some further investigative or prosecutorial endeavour in the future."
Other shortcomings in the investigation, such as the destruction of interview notes and questions as to whether spent bullet casings were tested for fingerprints were also highlighted by the coroner.
He said on Monday that he could not find direct or indirect evidence of collusion in the killing but stressed this was a finding based upon the evidence that had been brought before the court:
He told the inquest that he did not "not find direct or indirect evidence of collusion or anything from which I could infer collusion from the evidence which has been brought before me".
Lord Justice Weir described Ms Mallon as "entirely innocent victim", "a defenceless lady of mature years and blameless character" killed in a "planned unprovoked sectarian attack".
"The deceased was shot for no reason other than she happened to be a person present in a Catholic home," he told the inquest.
None of the Mallon family were in court in Belfast to hear the findings.