A coroner has found neither direct nor indirect collusion between the security forces and loyalists in the 1994 murder of a pensioner in Co Tyrone.
Roseann Mallon, 76, had been sitting in her sister-in-law’s house between 10.30pm and midnight on May 8 when she was shot dead by loyalist terrorists.
The spinster, who suffered with arthritis, was hit multiple times when gunmen from the outlawed UVF indiscriminately opened fire on the bungalow at Cullenrammer Road on the edge of Dungannon.
The UVF said its notorious mid Ulster brigade was responsible and was targeting two of Ms Mallon’s nephews, Christopher Mallon – who was not home at the time – and Martin Mallon, who lived half-a-mile away.
Both were involved with the republican movement.
An inquest into Ms Mallon’s death heard that security forces had installed two cameras in the area to monitor the two men.
It heard evidence that the cameras were monitored by a soldier to establish daytime patterns, but were turned off at night to preserve battery life – and only showed the front of the house.
However, presiding coroner Lord Justice Weir questioned why RUC Special Branch had not handed over footage from the camera to the police investigating team led by Detective Chief Inspector Kenneth McFarland.
“This was, to say the least, deeply unsatisfactory,” he said.
“Clearly a decision was taken at a senior level in SB not to share the video material or its existence with Mr McFarland who was a policeman of senior rank charged with the investigation of the most serious crime of murder.”
In his findings, Lord Justice Weir mentioned evidence given by Mr McFarland to the inquest in which the retired officer had described Special Branch as “a force within a force”, and the officer added “if SB thought you didn’t need to know you didn’t know”.
Five months after the murder of Ms Mallon, Special Branch handed over a list of car registrations that had been observed on the road that day, but there was a “discrepancy” between that list and those cars on the video footage, the inquest heard.
Lord Justice Weir added of the decision not to hand the tape to the murder investigation: “It is difficult to understand and has not been explained.”
No one has ever been convicted over Ms Mallon’s death, although high-profile killer Billy Wright – who was murdered in 1997 – and two other loyalists were arrested and questioned.
The interview notes had been held at Gough Barracks in Co Armagh, and the inquest surmised that they had been destroyed. Police Officers’ journals were also not available to the inquest.
Lord Justice Weir said of that: “I simply do not know what the practical effect of all or any of these matters may have been.
“Certainly, taken cumulatively, they do not inspire any feeling of confidence in the way in which the police investigation was conducted or the materials gathered in the course of it preserved so as to be available to the inquest or, perhaps, to some further investigative or prosecutorial endeavour in the future.”
Concluding his findings, he told the inquest that he does “not find direct or indirect evidence of collusion or anything from which I could infer collusion from the evidence which has been brought before me”.
Lord Justice Weir described Ms Mallon as “entirely innocent victim”, “a defenceless lady of mature years and blameless character” killed in a “planned unprovoked sectarian attack”.
“The deceased was shot for no reason other than she happened to be a person present in a Catholic home,” he told the inquest.
None of the Mallon family were in court in Belfast to hear the findings.