Northern Ireland

Hoarau murder: Ian Withers 'in limbo' over killing

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Media captionIan Withers says he is in "legal limbo" over Gerard Hoarau's murder

A County Antrim pensioner arrested over the assassination of an exiled politician from the Seychelles says he has been left in a legal limbo.

Ian Withers was arrested and flown to London last year for questioning about the 1985 murder of Gerard Hoarau in the city, but released without charge.

The ex-private detective admits spying on Mr Hoarau for the Seychelles but denies any involvement in his murder.

Scotland Yard said: "A 77-year-old man remains released under investigation."

However, Mr Withers said the phrase "under investigation" was ambiguous and placed him under a cloud.

He wants police to be more categorical and make it clear he is no longer a suspect.

The Seychelles, best known as a holiday destination, has attained stability and prosperity but, in the late 1970s and 1980s, the Indian Ocean archipelago went through a period of political upheaval.

This included several coups, an invasion by mercenaries and an abortive army mutiny.

'No different from

"I feel like they have left me in a legal limbo," Mr Withers told BBC News NI.

"I'd like them to be able to say that I am no longer subject to investigation.

"It's as simple as that."

Image caption Antrim man Ian Withers admits he spied on Mr Hoarau but says he had nothing to do with the murder

"If they have come up with some evidence down the road - if ever there was such a thing in existence - they could always come back and re-arrest me.

"Why leave someone on an open book?"

Police from London's Metropolitan Police are expected to return electronic equipment such as computers, laptops and telephones - removed from Mr Withers' Antrim home when he was arrested - later this month.

Image caption No-one has been charged with the murder of the Seychelles politician

"It tells me they have no further interest in me, otherwise they would not return the so-called evidence," he said.

"If they have got evidence you would want to keep it to go to court.

"They are returning that evidence which really means they are following the wrong lead.

'Intelligence gathering'

Mr Withers worked for the country's government when it was led by the left-wing single-party regime of Albert Rene.

He seized control in a coup in 1977 and led the country for almost three decades before stepping down in April 2004.

Image caption Gerard Hoarau was shot with a sub-machine gun on the doorstep of his Edgware home

"My job was to conduct what you might call commercial intelligence services to protect the country from being attacked or usurped by dissidents and their associates and paid servants namely mercenaries," said Mr Withers.

Asked if this meant he spied for the Seychelles government, he said: "You could say that - no different from being a spy for MI5 of MI6.

"Each country has to maintain its own security services to protect itself, and that is what I provided, a service to Seychelles amounting to external intelligence gathering."

This included gathering information on opposition exiled politicians from the Seychelles who had fled to London.

One of them, Gerard Hoarau, was gunned down outside his home in a quiet north London street in 1985 - a house which Mr Withers had arranged to be bugged.

"I did not personally plant the bugs, monitor them or control them in anyway. I had absolutely no knowledge or part in the murder of Gerard Hoarau.

At the time of the murder, the government of the Seychelles was blamed as chief suspect.

"I certainly had nothing to do with it. I can also say categorically that to my knowledge neither had the Seychelles government," said Mr Withers.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: "The 77-year-old man remains released under investigation.

"Officers continue to investigate the murder of Gerard Hoarau in Edgware in 1985."

A number of people were previously arrested in connection with the investigation, but no-one was charged with murder.

Three people were convicted in 1986 for perverting the course of justice.

The Rene government denied it was involved.

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