Peaceline shooting inquest on hold again

AN INQUEST into the controversial peaceline shooting of Paul Thompson five years ago was adjourned for the fourth time yesterday. Mr Thompson was shot dead by the UFF on April 27 1994 in Springhill Park, west Belfast, as he sat in a taxi. The driver was also injured in the ambush. A two-day public inquiry into the killing in September 1994 heard how police and the NIO had been warned about two men seen breaking a hole in the peace wall on the day of the shooting. The Springhill residents’ group distributed leaflets warning about the hole and advising people to be vigilant. Gunmen later used the hole to launch the attack. Yesterday’s hearing at Belfast magistrates court was adjourned by Belfast coroner John Leckey after a last-minute application by the Thompson family’s legal team. Angela Ritchie, of Madden and Finucane, told the hearing they were considering mounting a judicial review after RUC chief constable Ronnie Flanagan refused to release papers relating to disciplinary proceedings taken against police officers after the shooting. Ms Ritchie said a Home Office circular published after the Stephen Laurence case in England could apply to Mr Thompson’s case. She argued that the circular about deaths in police custody could be applied to Mr Thompson’s murder because there were allegations that his death happened after police failed to carry out their duty when warned about the hole in the peaceline.. Ms Ritchie said: “Their (the Thompson family’s) wish to have this inquest completed is balanced by their desire to find out the full details and circumstances of what happened.” Stephen Ritchie, representing the chief constable, told the hearing the disciplinary documents would be of no relevance to the inquest but did not object to the adjournment. “I wonder what relevance these documents could have to this case. If they were disclosed what use could be made of them, given the rules laid down for the coroner’s court?” Mr Leckey said it was not his position to mediate between the opposing views and adjourned the inquest. It is unlikely the inquest will be reconvened before next year. Speaking after the inquest Mr Thompson’s mother, Margaret, said she was disappointed that the inquest hadn’t gone ahead but wanted to make sure all the facts were made public. “This is my last chance,” she said.