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Ombudsman called in to investigate journalist Martin O’Hagan’s murder

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The Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman has been called in to investigate the murder of a journalist more than a decade ago, it can be revealed.

The move comes after the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said it was no longer in a position to review the reduced jail term handed down to loyalist supergrass Neil Hyde who had agreed to name the terror gang behind the 2001 shooting of Martin O’Hagan.

In a statement the PPS said its director Barra McGrory QC intended to exercise his powers to refer the murder case to the Ombudsman.

“The director now intends to exercise his power under section 55 of the Police Act 1998 to refer the matter to the Police Ombudsman for investigation,” the statement said.

Mr O’Hagan, 51, was shot dead as he walked home from a night out with his wife in Lurgan in September 2001.

The killing of the Sunday World reporter was claimed by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by both the Loyalist Volunteer Force and Ulster Defence Association.

Last year Hyde had his sentence for 48 LVF-linked offences slashed from 18 years to three after he agreed to become an ‘assisting offender’ and help police.

But, in January the PPS announced its decision not to prosecute and several months later announced it was passing the case back to the court amid allegations that Hyde did not tell the full truth in his dealings with the authorities.

The PPS statement added: “Based on the initial evidence the specified prosecutor in this case had concluded that the assisting offender had knowingly breached his agreement under section 73 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 and that it was in the interest of justice that the case be referred back to the original sentencing court.

“However, following further examination of the evidence previously made available by police, extensive police enquiries and PPS consultation with the relevant witness, it is considered that the evidence which is now available is not sufficient to establish a breach of the agreement by Neil Hyde to the requisite standard. Accordingly there is no longer a basis to refer the matter to the court.

“The court has therefore been informed that the PPS no longer seeks the review of the sentence.”

Neil Hyde was prosecuted for a range of offences including conspiring to carry a firearm with intent to wound in connection with the murder of Mr O’Hagan.

He was the first journalist killed in the line of work in the history of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

 

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