Ombudsman appeal over early Troubles deaths

Patrick Rooney
Patrick Rooney

The Police Ombudsman has launched a fresh appeal for information about four deaths during the early Troubles.

They include a schoolboy, a soldier and two others who were gunned down after a night of heavy rioting in Belfast in August 1969.

Despite the passage of time, a spokesman for the Ombudsman’s office they could not assume no new information would come to light.

He said: “These events in question are almost 50 years ago. The area has changed dramatically and many of the buildings have been demolished. The people who lived and worked there are either no longer with us or, at the very least, are in late middle age.

“This is one of the perennial problems in investigating matters from the past. It can be a challenge to find people who witnessed events and we then have to hope they have a clear memory of the incidents in question. But we cannot make the assumption that there is no one out there with new information which would assist us.”

The deaths had previously formed part of the considerations of the Scarman Tribunal which was set up to examine the 1969 disturbances.

They included nine-year-old Patrick Rooney, who was shot in the head at around 1am on August 15 1969 at his home on St Brendan’s Path in the Divis complex.

Samuel McLarnon, 28, died after being hit in the head at his home on Herbert Street in the Ardoyne area, during rioting in the area that evening.

Michael Lynch, also 28, was killed in the Elmfield/Butler Street area of Ardoyne at around 12.30am on August 15 1969 as he crossed a street during rioting.

The Ombudsman is also seeking information about Hugh McCabe, a 20-year-old soldier with the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars who was on home leave when he was shot shortly after midnight at the Whitehall block of flats in the Divis complex.

The deaths were referred to the Ombudsman by now defunct Historical Enquiries Team.

Investigators are keen to hear from any members of the public or security forces.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Ombudsman’s historical investigations team on 0800 345 7106.

Mr McLarnon’s relatives have welcomed the Ombudsman’s intervention.

In a statement issued through solicitor Padraig O Muirigh, they said: “The McLarnon family hope that this appeal will result in further witnesses coming forward who have yet to provide a statement.

“Although his death occurred over 40 years ago, determining the facts and circumstances of his death remain relevant and important today as a result of the failure of the state to properly determine the facts and circumstances of his death.”

The Scarman inquiry and report into his death was “manifestly insufficient” and an inquest was “equally flawed”, according to the family.

Testimony from a number of civil witnesses who gave evidence to a community inquiry in 1999 will be passed on to the Ombudsman’s office, the solicitor added.