Loughinisland officer: ‘I was destroyed by time evidence was discredited’

Known as the only serving officer arrested on suspicion of ‘collusion,’ he was unemployable by the time a key witness was discredited MARK RAINEY reports

By The Newsroom
Friday, 15th February 2019, 6:20 am
Updated Monday, 18th February 2019, 10:30 am
The Triumph Acclaim car used by the UVF gang that attacked The Heights bar in Loughinisland in June 1994
The Triumph Acclaim car used by the UVF gang that attacked The Heights bar in Loughinisland in June 1994

A police officer arrested twice on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in the Loughinisland case has been described by victims’ campaigners as “the only serving officer...to be arrested for collusion”.

He was accused by a mystery witness of, among other things, secretly concealing the UVF killers’ getaway car on his own property.

The officer was suspended from duty for two years and it would be another six years before the ombudsman (PONI) would conclude that the Triumph Acclaim car had been crushed long before the alleged incident described by the discredited witness.

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How the News Letter reported the UVF Loughinisland atrocity in 1994

“They destroyed me,” the former full-time reserve constable said.

“She came forward with her allegations after seeing a television documentary about the Loughinisland murders in 2009. I was suspended from duty for almost two years before going back to work, but the PSNI didn’t want me back in uniform and tried to keep me in the background.

“People seemed to think that I wouldn’t have been arrested [by PONI] without there being some genuine evidence against me. I wasn’t made to feel welcome and there was a lot of whispering,” he said.

The arrested officer’s identity was widely circulated and he has feared for his safety ever since. He does not wish to be named in this article.

He first came to the attention of ombudsman investigators in late 2009 when the witness claimed she had explosive information relating to the 1994 murders.

Identified only as ‘Officer 11’ in Al Hutchinson’s PONI report of 2011, the officer was also accused of putting the life of this witness in danger by passing her details to a relative of the alleged getaway driver.

He was arrested in January 2010 by PONI investigators on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice, assisting offenders and withholding information.

No charges were brought, and investigators would also ultimately discover that any contact the officer had with a relative of the claimed getaway driver was irrelevant as the person named was not involved in any way.

The evidence of the witness was finally dismissed following a staged reconstruction the murders in 2014 – with the ombudsman concluding that she “could not have identified the driver of the car, which she stated passed her home on the night of the murders.”

The six men shot dead at The Heights bar were: Adrian Rogan, 34; Daniel McCreanor, 59; Eamon Byrne, 39; Patrick O’Hare, 35; Barney Green, 87 and Malcolm Jenkinson, 52.

The former officer said he has been verbally abused by former colleagues who have read the online accounts of his alleged collusion with loyalist terrorists.

He said the witness had a personal grievance against him over an entirely unrelated issue.

A civil legal action against the ombudsman and the witness for malicious prosecution collapsed when he ran out of money to sustain it, he said.

He said he can’t believe the amount of discredited claims that have remained in the public domain long after the allegations have been investigated and shown to be spurious.

His claimed involvement was deemed significant enough to merit its own section in a special booklet produced to commemorate the massacre in 2012. However, the ex-officer said the list of “irrelevant coincidences” being passed off as being linked to the murder investigation “would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious”.

The booklet remains available online – stating the following as evidence worthy of criminal charges:

• The location of where the car was recovered was close to the home of a then serving RUC officer.

• Known as ‘Police Officer 11’ this RUC officer was based in Downpatrick RUC station where the murder inquiry was based.

• Police Officer 11 provided the personal details of an eye-witness, who could identify the driver of the getaway car, to the uncle of this same suspect.

• Police Officer 11 is the only serving police officer to ever be arrested for collusion.

• Despite the facts set out above, he has never been charged.

The ostracised officer left the PSNI six months after returning to work from suspension, but encountered severe difficulty finding employment.

“I couldn’t get a job because of all this. I threw thousands [of pounds] at solicitors trying to get compensation but it was getting nowhere fast and I couldn’t afford to keep paying the legal bills.”

The subsequent PONI report published by Dr Michael Maguire in 2016 said there were “serious irreconcilable inconsistencies in the evidence provided”.

The former officer said he has taken further legal advice regarding the websites still carrying the original witness allegations.

“It doesn’t get any better or any easier, because all of this nonsense is still online and keeps coming up every time someone goes looking for information about Loughinisland,” he said.

“The ombudsman believed her and came to arrest me.

“The reconstruction of what she claimed happened came after all that, but that was too late for me – the damage had been done.”