Officer’s maternity leave factor in delay in republican’s suspicious death inquest

Gerard Hampson was a former republican prisoner
Gerard Hampson was a former republican prisoner

A police officer’s maternity leave is one of the contributing factors in significantly delaying an inquest into the suspicious death of a former republican prisoner.

The body of Londonderry man Gerard Hampson was found on the shores of Lough Neagh, six weeks after his family reported him missing in December 2007.

At the time of his disappearance, the 53-year-old was wanted for questioning about an abduction in Co Westmeath.

Although a post-mortem was inconclusive, a pathologist concluded there “must be considerable suspicions surrounding the death”.

At yesterday’s preliminary hearing in Belfast, the coroner’s court was told police had provided the bulk of its non-sensitive disclosures for the inquest, but in terms of sensitive documentation there were “resource issues” with progressing this material. An “added complication” is the officer in charge of the case for almost a decade is to go off on maternity leave, and is not back until April.

The police response to the disappearance led to the police ombudsman recommending that eight officers be disciplined.

The coroner who will lead the inquiry – due to begin next April – reminded the court it was his job to try and find out how Mr Hampson died rather than look at police actions afterwards.