Loughinisland film-makers retrieve seized material

Two arrested documentary makers have retrieved a haul of journalistic material unlawfully seized by police.

Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey visited a police station in south Belfast to collect their possessions on Tuesday, hours after detectives dramatically dropped their investigation into them.

Police are being forced by the courts to return laptops, hard drives, mobile phones, notepads and millions of digital files.

The outcome of last week’s challenge in the civil courts, which ruled search warrants used by police unlawful, prompted officers to announce late on Monday that their criminal probe into the film-makers was being discontinued.

Barry McCaffrey, left, and Trevor Birney
Barry McCaffrey, left, and Trevor Birney (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Birney and Mr McCaffrey were arrested last August over the alleged theft of a police watchdog document that appeared in their film on a notorious loyalist massacre during the Northern Ireland Troubles.

The reporters, who insist the material on the Loughinisland killings came from an anonymous whistleblower, had been on bail ever since.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had asked Durham Police to investigate the alleged theft.

Both organisations confirmed on Monday that the reporters were no longer under investigation – though they said the probe into the alleged theft would continue.

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