McCartney murder mystery deepens

16/02/2005 - 07:27:29

The CCTV footage mystery surrounding a Belfast pub brawl murder deepened today after it emerged that cameras were not operating when the killers struck.

Detectives probing the alleged IRA gang stabbing of Robert McCartney, 33, have seized up to 30 security tapes from a city centre bar where trouble first flared.

A slot machine was also removed as part of the inquiry.

Even though the victim, a forklift driver, was battered and knifed after he left Magennis’s bar, it had been suspected that crucial film was seized by republicans in a cover-up operation.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has refused to say whether the CCTV images were available.

A PSNI spokeswoman confirmed today: “One of the lines of inquiry we are following at the moment is that there was a tape in the machine.”

But sources close to the investigation disclosed that equipment used to monitor the premises was not recording when the deadly row flared on January 30.

The latest twist came as Mr McCartney’s family prepared to meet the US Consul General in Belfast, Dean Pittman.

They want President George Bush’s government to intervene as they seek to force the killers to be brought to justice.

The McCartney’s believe the gang who murdered the father of two has been protected, and witnesses intimidated.

Although police have questioned seven men, including a top IRA man, no-one has yet been charged.

As the family’s campaign has intensified, so has the political pressure on Sinn Féin.

With SDLP leader Mark Durkan pledging to raise the case with Mr Bush’s Northern Ireland aide during a transatlantic trip this week, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern warned the attack had more serious consequences than December’s Northern Bank heist, also blamed on the IRA.

Republicans have now come out heavily against the murderers, claiming they would have no part in hiding the killers and that the family deserved to see them captured.

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said: “I don’t care who was involved in this horrible killing.

“Had I been anywhere near where this terrible killing took place, I would immediately have gone to the family and made a statement of what happened there.

“Let me be clear, there will be no cover up. Sinn Féin people will not be involved in covering up this action.”

The McCartneys, who met Mr Kelly yesterday, now believe Sinn Féin is sincere.

But one of the victim’s sister, Paula McCartney, said: “We need to be more convinced they will be handed over.

“It’s not in Sinn Féin’s interests to cover this up and they seem just as eager as us to get the people who did this.”

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