THE COMPLAINT TO THE POLICE OMBUDSMAN’S HISTORICAL INVESTIGATIONS DIRECTORATE ON THE LA MON HOUSE ATROCITY
“The one [attack that was] by far the most serious, indeed the most horrific in the history of this community”
(Lord Justice Gibson, 29 September 1981)
The victims of the La Mon House atrocity, which took place 36 years ago, on 17 February 1978, have lodged a public complaint with the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, in compliance with Sections 53 and 54 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 and Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which imposes on the State authorities the duty to secure the right to life.
The IRA admitted placing a bomb at the hotel, killing twelve people and injuring twenty-three others, some very seriously. The victims of the terrorist attack remain to this day physically and emotionally scarred.
Although the investigation that followed involved a considerable number of police officers, it was never successful in bringing to justice those responsible for masterminding, preparing and carrying out this atrocity. Only one person was convicted of manslaughter, Robert Murphy, who served 15 years in jail and was released on licence for life in September 1995. He died in 2006. Another man, Edward Brophy, was arrested and charged with murder but acquitted when the judge directed that his written and verbal confessions were inadmissible. He died in 1997. No one was ever convicted of murder.
The review by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has not unveiled any new lines of enquiry that would help establish the truth and identify the perpetrators. The HET Review Summary Report (RSR) reveals that most of the documents and exhibits can no longer be found and it would appear that they had not been made secure. This has had the adverse impact of commensurably reducing the possibility of achieving success in pursuance of truth and justice. The HET has also disclosed that Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch (RUC SB) had been involved at a very early stage of the investigation, which raises the question of possible collusion between officers of the RUC SB and State agents working for them who had infiltrated the IRA. However, the HET has abstained from answering questions that were asked on 31 October 2012.
In the light of the HET findings and the allegations of possible collusion, a report was handed over to Ms Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, on 13 August 2013, who was asked to open an independent review with the purpose of producing a full public account of any involvement in the La Mon House attack of State agents working for RUC SB, the Army, or the Security Service. On 28 April 2014 the Secretary of State indicated that she had decided not to open an investigation into the La Mon House bombing.
In the meantime, the Report on the La Mon House atrocity had been forwarded to the Chief Constable, who then transmitted it to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland on 23 January 2014. On receipt of this report, the Police Ombudsman’s Office Manager contacted Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW), who asked the Police Ombudsman to consider exercising his discretionary power to call himself in. On 19 May 2014 the Police Ombudsman made the decision not to exercise his dicretionary power but advised that the victims should lodge a public complaint, which is therefore being done today.
It is undeniable that this atrocity was one of the most horrific of the entire terrorist campaign carried out in Northern Ireland. Despite what appeared to be an extensive investigation into this case, those who ordered, planned and directed this attack and those who made the bomb and transported it to the La Mon House Hotel were never prosecuted or convicted.
The fact that the allegations of collusion between RUC SB detectives and State agents has now emerged, that essential documents and exhibits have disappeared from the investigation file and that the HET is even refusing to answer questions from the victims, all raise legitimate suspicions as to the responsibility of some within the police force who would want to prevent the truth from being established and the perpetrators of the atrocity from being identified. The allegations of collusion may have perverted the course of justice, since those responsible for criminal activities would have been protected.
Due to the seriousness of the allegations, the time that has elapsed since the atrocity took place, the physical and mental pain the victims have already endured, the advanced age of some of the victims, it has been submitted that this public complaint should be given priority and thoroughly, independently and impartially investigated by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
The Commission for Victims and Survivors and Mr Ivan Lewis MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, have indicated that they support the public complaint lodged by the victims of the La Mon House atrocity.