A fresh investigation into the death of a Co Antrim toddler could be launched following an intervention by the Police Ombudsman.
The move comes after Ballymena councillor Declan O’Loan made an official complaint about the tragic case of Liam Gonzales Bennett.
Twenty-month-old Liam died of multiple head injuries the day after he was rushed to hospital from his home at Sunningdale Park, Ballymena in February 2009.
A court heard evidence from pathologist Dr Alistair Bentley that the toddler’s injuries may have been caused by the “knuckles of a fist”.
Liam’s mother, Samantha Bennett, and her fiance at the time, Noel McKeown, were arrested and were questioned several times but no prosecution was ever brought – despite police saying they are not pursuing anyone else over the little boy’s death.
A PSNI detective who headed the investigation told a court hearing “there wasn’t enough evidence to identify who had caused the injuries to Liam”.
At an inquest in Belfast last month, Coroner Suzanne Anderson requested that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) look at the circumstances of the case again.
The court also heard how Mr McKeown - who now lives in Australia - made a frantic phone call to the baby’s mother when he discovered Liam wasn’t breathing. Ms Bennett had been at a nearby shop when she received the call.
Mr McKeown called an ambulance but Liam died the following day in the Royal Victoria Hospital.
In the latest development, Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire has revealed he has written to both the coroner and the DPP in an effort to “determine how best to progress this matter”.
Councillor O’Loan has welcomed the news that Dr Maguire is actively involved in a new investigation.
Cllr O’Loan said he is aware the Ombudsman has asked coroner Suzanne Anderson if she has any concerns about the quality of the police investigation.
“He has also written to the Director of the PPS expressing an interest in the review that will take place, and requesting that should the PPS identify any concerns about the adequacy of the police investigation they refer the matter to him,” Cllr O’Loan said.
The SDLP councillor added: “I am pleased that Mr Maguire states that he shares my concerns that no one has been made amenable for this crime, and that he has asked the necessary questions of the two key agencies involved.
“Someone needs to break into this case to see if there can have been justification for no charges having been taken and to establish if there was failure in some part of the legal chain.
“Clarity on this needs to come into the public arena. The Police Ombudsman is well placed to begin the necessary inquiries, and I welcome the fact that he has done so.”
A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman said: “I can confirm that the Police Ombudsman has written to the coroner and the PPS, whose responses will help determine how best to progress this matter.
A PSNI spokesman said it would be “inappropriate to common” at the present time.