Murder victim among eight people police failed to warn about serious threats

A murder victim was among eight people police in Northern Ireland failed to warn about serious threats, a watchdog revealed.

Father-of-two Conor McKee was shot dead in North Belfast in 2016.

Police ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire was asked to investigate concerns about how officers responded to information that people were under threat.

His mother Margaret McKee told UTV: “The detective in charge of Conor’s murder told my husband and I there had been a death threat made when Conor was in prison, and he had not been told about the death threat, and they had reported it to the ombudsman.”

She added: “In a way it doesn’t shock me, because I don’t think we live in the right postcode to be quite honest with you.

“I don’t think there are very many young people’s lives worth anything to anybody, only their families in the area they live in.”

In November 2015, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable George Hamilton asked the ombudsman to investigate concerns about how his officers responded to information that a number of people were under threat.

Police had been aware of threats against two men shot in Belfast earlier in the year.

An officer had incorrectly assessed both warnings as representing a low risk.

This meant no protective measures were put in place and the men were given no advance warning before they were attacked.

Police then reviewed other assessments made by the same officer.

They checked a total of 20 spanning more than six months, finding another five in which he had wrongly assessed people to have been at low risk.

These threats were regraded, warnings issued to those affected and steps taken to ensure their protection.

In January 2016, a man was shot dead in Belfast. Police had also known about a threat against this man.

That had also been incorrectly assessed by the same officer, yet had not been picked up by the review of his work undertaken by police several months earlier.

Ombudsman investigators sought to establish why.

The watchdog was unable to interview the officer as he was on medical leave during their investigation.

They established that he had reached incorrect conclusions as he had failed to follow police procedures.

Dr Maguire said the officer would have been the subject of disciplinary recommendations had he not retired from the police before completion of his investigation.

Ms McKee recalled finding her son’s lifeless body in his bedroom.

She told UTV: “I don’t know, when I touched him and started to shake him I knew he was dead. Because he didn’t come round.

“I never noticed any blood. I never seen anything like that.”

She added: “I just couldn’t believe it that somebody came in to my home and murdered my child. I just couldn’t believe it.

“Nobody deserves this, nobody has the right to take anybody’s life.

“But I did say that night. I would rather be Conor’s mother and I still mean this.

“I would rather be Conor’s mother than be the mother of the person or the people that came in and took my son’s life.”

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Tim Mairs told UTV: “I believe that the ombudsman’s report demonstrates that this is not a systemic failing, that these were failings in very specific circumstances, but yes, I’m deeply disappointed.”

He added: “All I can say is I’m deeply sorry we did not issue the notification when we had it, and I appreciate those can be seen as hollow words, as that will not bring Conor back.”

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