Sam Marshall

Sam Marshall

The sister of a man shot dead by loyalists 25 years ago while undercover soldiers were at the scene has cleared the first stage in a legal bid to secure an inquest into the killing.

Linda Hewitt claims the delay in examining the circumstances surrounding the murder of former republican prisoner Sam Marshall breaches her human rights.

She is also challenging an alleged failure by the Police Ombudsman to investigate a complaint about suspected collusion in her brother’s assassination.

Leave to seek a judicial review in both aspects of her case was granted at the High Court in Belfast yesterday.

Marshall was ambushed along with Tony McCaughey and Colin Duffy after the left a police station in Lurgan, Co Armagh in March 1990.

The attack was claimed by the UVF, but the gunmen were never identified.

Claims of a security force role in the killing centred on the nearby presence of a Maestro car, later found to be a military intelligence vehicle.

In 2012 a Historical Enquiries Team report into the shooting revealed that at least eight undercover soldiers were in the area at the time.

Although the loyalist killers launched the attack within yards of the armed troops and escaped, investigators said there was no evidence of state collusion with the gunmen.

Efforts to secure an inquest intensified after the Historical Enquiries Team findings were published.

Ms Hewitt has issued wide-ranging proceedings against the coroner and the Department of Justice over alleged failures in commencing a tribunal.

She is also claiming the non-disclosure of documents by the Chief Constable and Ministry of Defence contributed to the delay.

A further strand of the legal action centres on allegations that the Police Ombudsman has not probed a complaint lodged by the Marshall family back in 2008.

In court none of the respondents opposed Ms Hewitt’s application for leave to seek a judicial review.

On that basis Mr Justice Treacy confirmed the challenge will advance to a full hearing at a later stage.

Proceedings were adjourned, however, pending the outcome of an appeal against the award of damages for delays in holding an inquest in a separate case.

Outside court Ms Hewitt’s solicitor claimed each of the public authorities involved in the application are guilty of unreasonable delay in progressing the inquest.

Fearghal Shiels of Madden & Finucane said:

“Some seven and a half years after a complaint was made to the Police Ombudsman there has been no tangible progress in investigating that complaint, which may of course identify further evidence of state collusion in Sam’s murder which would be pertinent for the inquest to examine.

“This case represents a further illustration that the current structure of the coronial system is incapable of providing bereaved families with access to a prompt and effective investigation.”

The Irish News