Incredulity at missing police reports into Armagh man’s murder

January 17, 2012

By Christine Keighery

A preliminary hearing into the killing in 2003 of Gareth O’Connor has heard that files on the ombudsman’s investigation into police handling of the case had never reached them.

The IRA is believed to be responsible for killing Mr O’Connor, who vanished on his way to Dundalk Garda station in 2003.  He regularly reported there as part of bail conditions set after he was charged with Real IRA membership. The Co. Armagh man’s decomposed body was later recovered inside a Volkswagen Golf submerged in Newry River.   At the time, it was assumed that O’Connor had been “disappeared” forever before police, acting on a tip off, searched the Omeath Road section of the Newry Canal, and found his body inside the vehicle he had last been seen in, driving through Newtownhamilton.

A PSNI representative dealing with Mr O’Connor’s case told the preliminary hearing in Mays Chambers that a draft report into his murder had never reached him, but may have been received by the chief constable’s office and never passed on.  He explained the issue of the missing report as the result of “a breakdown in what and when a department handles and what another is aware of” and went on to say he would attempt to track down the missing “draft” O’Connor report.

The ombudsman’s office promised to supply chief coroner, John Leckey, with a copy of the document in 2010 but he has not received it and police have no record of having a copy of it.

Ombudsman representative Dunlop McCubbin, deputy senior investigating officer, said the final version of the report would not be ready before the end of the inquest.

Mr Leckey expressed his incredulity that the report had disappeared without a trace and urged that the inquest be held soon for the sake of O’Connor’s family.

“The family might never be satisfied with the outcome and therefore there has to be finality.” He said, before reiterating “Time’s passing and we really have to draw a line under this and get on with the holding of the inquests”.