Northern Ireland

Sean Graham shop killings: Policing Board demands files explanation

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Media captionPolice "never sought to deliberately withhold" information - PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin

The Policing Board is seeking a written explanation of how the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) failed to reveal information about a loyalist gun attack.

On Thursday, it was revealed the PSNI had only recently handed over all of its files to the Police Ombudsman on the Sean Graham Bookmakers' killings.

The Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) killed five people in the 1992 attack.

The PSNI apologised, but denied it was deliberately withholding information.

On Friday, a Policing Board spokesperson said: "The Policing Board has requested that a full report from the chief constable on the disclosure of materials to the Police Ombudsman is received by the board early next week.

Image caption Five men were killed in the betting shop attack in south Belfast

"Board members will consider the report and take a decision on appropriate arrangements for further discussion with the chief constable."

The PSNI has been accused of a "cover-up" over the failure to reveal the "significant information".

Chief Con George Hamilton is facing a call to resign from some of the victims' families.

'Collusion'

They have previously said they believe there was collusion between the killers and security forces in the betting shop shootings.

The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, said his staff became aware that police were preparing to disclose material as part of impending civil proceedings.

His office then asked for that material and it helped his staff to "identify significant evidence relevant to a number of our investigations," he added.

Image caption The attack in February 1992 was carried out by the Ulster Freedom Fighters

"Police have now also identified a computer system, which they say had not been properly searched when responding to previous requests for information," said Dr Maguire.

"It would seem information which police told us did not exist has now been found."

The material has led the Police Ombudsman to examine new lines of inquiry into the Ormeau Road shootings, events connected to loyalist paramilitaries in the north west of Northern Ireland between 1988 and 1994 and the murder of teenager Damien Walsh at a coal depot in west Belfast in 1993.

Delay

Police Ombudsman reports into those investigations will now be delayed.

Dr Maguire said that "in the interests of public confidence in policing" he has asked Stormont's Department of Justice to commission an independent review into the methods police use to disclose information.

In 2015, the PSNI's chief constable apologised after it was discovered that the weapon used in the Ormeau Road killings was on display in the Imperial War Museum in London.

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