PPS confirms 'no prosecution' in Colum Marks case as RUC officer involved slams 'vexatious' investigations

A former covert RUC officer who shot and killed an IRA leader in1991 has branded the latest reinvestigation “vexatious,” after the PPS confirmed he will not face prosecution.
Colum Marks was shot dead by the RUC while preparing a terrorist attack in Downpatrick in 1991. PacemakerColum Marks was shot dead by the RUC while preparing a terrorist attack in Downpatrick in 1991. Pacemaker
Colum Marks was shot dead by the RUC while preparing a terrorist attack in Downpatrick in 1991. Pacemaker

Known by the cipher Officer B since the original probe into the death of Colum Marks in Downpatrick, the specialist firearms and surveillance officer was originally cleared of any wrongdoing in 1993 as the IRA man had been in the process of carrying out a terrorist attack.

Although he has welcomed the latest PPS decision, Officer B said his life has been “absolute hell” under the constant threat of prosecution.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He endured a further seven-year prosecution ordeal when, 25 years after the fatal shooting, someone who claimed to be a previously unidentified witness made a statement.

Lawyers acting for the Marks’ family also commissioned a private forensic report suggesting it was possible he was shot in the back as he attempted to evade arrest.

Based on what was claimed to be credible new evidence, in 2017 the Police Ombudsman NI began another investigation, with a file then sent to the PPS for consideration in August 2021.

However, the PPS reported in May last year that, once again, there was no “reasonable prospect of a conviction”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

At the time, the PPS said: “There was some new forensic evidence which suggested that two wounds to the back of Mr Marks may have been entry wounds. However, this evidence was not conclusive and was also inconsistent with examinations of Mr Marks’ body at the time which had identified the relevant wounds as exit wounds.

“On the available evidence, therefore, there was no reasonable prospect of proving that Officer B fired shots into the back of the deceased.”

Officer B said he had been left angered that the veracity of the belated ‘new evidence’ claims was not properly evaluated before a new criminal investigation was launched.

When the Marks family asked the PPS to review the May 2023 ‘no prosecution’ decision, that led to a further 11-month delay before the officer was free from the threat of criminal proceedings.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Officer B said he has been through “another 11 months of absolute hell” waiting on the outcome.

"First there was a CID investigation, then a Complaints and Discipline investigation, there was a DPP investigation, there was the inquest, then I was interviewed twice by the Ombudsman...then it goes to the PPS, and then we have the PPS review. How many more investigations?” he said.

Officer B had been involved in the close observation of an IRA team preparing a mortar attack at St Patrick’s Avenue when, in response to the deployment of a uniformed HMSU (Headquarters Mobile Support Unit) reaction team, Marks ran across an adjacent field in his direction.

In the poor light, and unable to see if Marks was carrying a weapon, Officer B said he fired two warning shots as well as shouting for Marks to stop. When Marks continued in his direction, Officer B fired five single shots.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said he was still at the scene as Marks was able to tell the uniformed officers his name as they applied field dressings to his wounds before taking the injured terrorist to hospital.

"He was armed with a Mk12 mortar [of the type] responsible for the deaths of at least three soldiers and two police officers, including Coleen McMurray in Newry – which he was going to fire onto a busy town centre street.”

Officer B added: “I was up against a seasoned IRA operator, and republicans have repeatedly acknowledged that he was ‘on active service’. Not once do I recall the IRA giving a warning about an attack of this kind.

"He would have been arrested if he had stopped when I called the warning, or fired the warning shots. The [police] operation that night was an arrest operation… but with the fear that I had for my life – that is why he ended up getting shot”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Officer B said the so-called new evidence that sparked the 2017 investigation “was never credible,” and added: “I have now got a place overseas and I’m leaving Northern Ireland.

"This is not a country at peace with itself, and it never will be while you have these vexatious reinvestigations.”