Police Ombudsman offers to aid McCartney probe
02/03/2005 - 14:02:14

The office of the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman today offered to assist in the investigation of the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney.

The offer was made as a way of getting republicans not traditionally anxious to make statements to the police to come forward.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde said earlier that he was quite happy for people who did not feel confident about going directly to the police to approach them through a third party.

“I have no difficulty with that, but what we need to do is get the information and then give the people the confidence to go into court and give the evidence,” said Mr Orde.

The family of Mr McCartney, who had his throat slashed after a pub fight last month, have accused IRA members of being responsible and the IRA of covering up the murder and intimidating witnesses to stop them giving information.

The murdered man’s sister, Paula, today said that if witnesses were unwilling to give statements directly to the police the family would like them to give them to the Police Ombudsman.

A spokesman for Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan’s office said: “We are keen to help in any way we can.”

He added: “We need to agree with the PSNI the best way forward.”

Agreement would be needed on a method of statements being taken and formally passed to the murder investigation team so they could be used in any legal action which follows, he said.

The IRA said at the weekend that three members had been expelled following an internal inquiry into the murder and the forensic clean up of the bar which followed.

A 29-year-old man was last night released without charge after being questioned by detectives investigating the killing. Another man was released without charge at the weekend.

Meanwhile Belfast City Council last night overwhelmingly backed an SDLP motion condemning the murder and calling on witnesses to pass information to the police.

Sinn Féin came under fire after abstaining during the vote after their amendment calling on people to come forward through whatever avenue they chose was heavily defeated.

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