RUC man facing 1969 probe

Doug Beattie MLA
Doug Beattie MLA

Concern has been expressed about an investigation into the Troubles-related death of a nine-year-old boy in 1969.

It has emerged that a 78-year-old former RUC officer is under investigation by the Police Ombudsman in connection with the death of Patrick Rooney, who was fatally shot during riots in west Belfast.

The officer has voluntarily attended an interview about the matter with ombudsman officers – who have the power to recommend criminal charges. It is thought that the line of questioning centred on who fired the fatal shot.

He has not been arrested.

In March 2016 the Police Ombudsman announced they would be investigating the young boy’s death and three other deaths during the Troubles which had previously formed part of the Scarman Tribunal, which was set up to examine the 1969 riots.

According to Lost Lives – a chronology of Troubles deaths – Patrick Rooney died after being struck as he lay in his bed in his family’s flat in Divis Tower.

UUP MLA Doug Beattie has questioned how the investigation can be “balanced and fair” given the passage of time.

He said the boy’s death came at a time of intense rioting, before the Army were brought onto the streets.

Mr Beattie said: “Without a doubt there were numerous gun battle raging the night Patrick Rooney was killed and without a doubt the RUC fired that night.

“Yet without a proper ballistics investigation it is difficult to determine who fired the fatal shots that killed Patrick Rooney and wounded his ex-serviceman father.”

He added that “without evidence from other police officers present at the time, evidence from paramilitaries operating in the area and a full and detailed ballistics report how is PONI ever to get to the truth in a balanced and fair way?”

In the absence of “new evidence”, he wondered if the investigation into the 78-year-old “is based around the fact he is the only surviving member of a police unit involved in this incident”.

“I do believe evidence should be followed and – if it reaches the threshold required – charges should follow,” he said.

“The Rooney family deserve truth and justice; it is crucial that what they get is truth and justice and not a one-sided version of it.”

The Police Ombudsman confirmed it was an ongoing investigation, adding: “The law requires us to investigate, and it is incumbent that in doing so we gather as much information as we can about the circumstances which resulted in the death of a nine-year-old boy. That includes speaking to people, including former police officers, who may be able to assist our enquiries.

“We have also issued public appeals for information about the course of events and the context surrounding Patrick’s death, and we would welcome any additional relevant information anyone might wish to bring to our attention.”