Sunday Life

Omagh bomb security gaffe
Wanted man held in Wales but is released

By Alan Murray
12 September 2004

Mystery still surrounds why the PSNI was not told that a man, wanted for interview about the Omagh bombing, was detained for over three hours, at Cardiff airport, before being freed.

For local police are still to explain to victims' families why they weren't told that professional car thief, Paddy Dixon, was held and then freed by Customs officers in Wales, in July, after he was detected carrying a large quantity of cigarettes and cash.

The officer leading the Omagh inquiry, Superintendent Norman Baxter has been trying to interview Dixon for 18 months, about his possible knowledge of the planning of the Real IRA attack.

But, even though the car thief is protected within a Garda Witness Protection programme, Baxter's detectives haven't been allowed to speak to him.

Dixon's Garda handler, Sgt John White, has confirmed that he was a registered informant, who stole several cars for the Real IRA for use in bombings, prior to August, 1998.

He says that prior to Omagh, Dixon was asked by the Real IRA to find a Vauxhall car for use in major bombing, but was then told one had already been stolen.

But, the information was never transmitted to the RUC by the Garda, and the Omagh bomb car was able to travel undetected from the Republic to Northern Ireland, with the devastating 300lbs device on board.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the bomb, asked Hugh Orde to explain why the PSNI wasn't made aware by Customs and Excise, that Dixon had been detained in Cardiff.

Despite writing to the Chief Constable, a month ago, he still hasn't got an explanation.

"I received a letter from the Chief Constable, dated August 9, merely saying he'd passed the correspondence to the Crime Operations Assistant Chief Constable, Sam Kinkaid. But, that's as much as I've got in response so far," he said on Friday.

Mr Gallagher, who is chairman of the Omagh Support and Self Help Group, sent a copy of the letter to the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, and the Secretary of State.

"Norman Baxter has made several requests to interview Dixon without success," said Mr Gallagher.

"Then, when Dixon is stopped in the UK, he is allowed to go without the PSNI being told he was in Cardiff.

"I've asked the Chief Constable to advise me if the PSNI has made all UK law enforcement agencies aware that they have an interest in Dixon, but so far I haven't received any response of substance", Michael Gallagher said.

A PSNI spokesman refused to comment on why the force wasn't advised by Customs that Dixon had been detained in Wales.

He said Michael Gallagher's letter was "receiving attention". And, a Customs & Excise spokesman, said they weren't prepared to comment about the embarrassing gaffe.

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