Police chief orders independent inquiry into RUC officers’ murders
The murders of three Northern Ireland policemen in an IRA bomb attack are to be reinvestigated by a team of independent detectives.
Former Bedfordshire chief constable Jon Boutcher is to lead the inquiry into the landmine blast that claimed the lives of Royal Ulster Constabulary Sergeant Sean Quinn and constables Allan McCloy and Paul Hamilton at Kinnego embankment in County Armagh on October 27 1982.
The investigation was ordered by Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable Simon Byrne.
The Kinnego bomb blast was a key incident in a sequence of events that led the security forces in Northern Ireland to be accused of operating a “shoot-to-kill” policy in the early 1980s.
The “shoot-to-kill” cases involved six people, including IRA men and a Catholic teenager, who were shot dead by the security forces around Lurgan and Armagh in 1982 amid claims there was a deliberate intention to kill them.
The Kinnego blast happened weeks prior to those killings and the attack was considered a motivating factor for those security force members who were subsequently involved in the six disputed killings.
Mr Boutcher has a track record of taking on investigations in Northern Ireland that could create conflict of interest issues if they were conducted by local officers.
He is already heading up an independent police inquiry, code-named Operation Kenova, into the activities of Stakeknife – the Army’s most senior spy with the IRA.
The investigation into the landmine deaths is separate from Operation Kenova.
Announcing the new inquiry, Mr Byrne said: “Following an independent review carried out at the request of my predecessor, Sir George Hamilton, outstanding investigative opportunities were identified in the murder of the three RUC officers at Kinnego embankment, Oxford Island, near Lurgan, County Armagh on October 27 1982.
“I have now asked for the assistance of Operation Kenova lead, Jon Boutcher, to head an external investigation team to carry out a separate independent investigation.”
Mr Boutcher said: “I have met with the families of the three officers and have assured them of my commitment to this investigation.
“All they have ever wanted is to find out the truth of what happened to their loved ones and I will do everything in my power to establish that for them.
“They have shown great dignity over the years and have asked for the press to respect their privacy – I would echo that to allow my team to focus on the investigation.”
As well as Operation Kenova and the new probe into the Kinnego bombing, Mr Boutcher is also carrying out an independent investigation into the death of Jean Smyth-Campbell, who was shot dead in west Belfast in June 1972.