Confusion has surfaced over what exactly the future holds for the Historical Enquiries Team after police declined to dispel conflicting accounts on the fate of Dave Cox.
Mr Cox, the head of the unit, had been due to stand down by the end of this month according to reports on Saturday, which quoted from an email sent to the members of the Policing Board that cited a departure date of September 28.
However, the BBC later reported that PSNI sources were insisting this was not the case.
Instead, said the corporation, no final decision about Mr Cox’s departure will be made until his return from holiday this week.
In an effort to shed some light on what is happening, the News Letter put this account to police.
The response which came back said: “These matters are subject to ongoing confidential discussions with the NI Policing Board.”
The HET was set up in 2005 and the PSNI describes it as follows: “It is a unique policing initiative and it re-examines all deaths which can be attributed to the security situation here between 1968 and 1998.”
Members of the Policing Board said they were stunned to get an email saying Mr Cox was going on September 28, three months earlier than anticipated, after a heated meeting with Chief Constable Matt Baggott who had insisted Mr Cox would remain until the end of the year.
It follows a sharply critical review of the HET-investigated military killings in Northern Ireland.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said the unit treated deaths caused by members of the security forces less rigorously than deaths attributed to paramilitaries.
It also claimed the team was inconsistent, and risked losing the confidence of victims’ families.
Following the publication, the Policing Board said it had no confidence in the leadership of the HET.
It was reported that a PSNI chief superintendent and superintendent would be appointed on September 28 to review all policies, procedures and standards and fulfil all recommendations made in the report.
DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said of Mr Cox: “He came in and was asked to do an almost impossible job and attempted to put a system together whilst not perfect, has reached some level of satisfaction in dealing with criminal activity in the past.”
He added the main focus should be on the new management of the HET.