Ex-officers hit back at Nelson criticism

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CRITICISM of the RUC’s treatment of Rosemary Nelson has been rejected by retired police officers.

One retired officer has claimed the murdered Lurgan solicitor crossed the line between representing IRA men and assisting terrorists.

Last week’s Inquiry concluded there was no direct state collusion in the March 1999 car bomb murder of Rosemary Nelson, but cited failures by the RUC to warn Mrs Nelson that she was in danger and to protect her.

Norman Baxter, the retired detective who led the investigation into the Omagh bomb said the Inquiry demonstrated the police should have acted on intelligence available to them and investigated the solicitor.

Mr Baxter said that some day the ordinary citizens would stand up and say “enough is enough” to the series of the public inquiries into the deaths of republicans while little is done for the victims of the IRA.

He accused Sinn Fein of “sponsoring” such inquiries as the £46.5 million Nelson report, adding they didn’t get the conclusion they wanted.

Mr Baxter said: “Unfortunately for Sinn Fein who sponsor and demand such inquiries, the Nelson Inquiry did not find a complex plan by the government and police to kill Rosemary Nelson.

“Rather, those who take time to read the report will find evidence of a solicitor who crossed the line between an advocate for a client to in-depth involvement in criminal conspiracies to defeat the due process of the law.”

Other ex-police officers defended the RUC’s handling of Mrs Nelson’s security.

David Turkington, who chairs the Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers’ Association, said: “For the public record, let us remind everyone of the main finding: ‘There is no evidence of any act by or within any of the state agencies (including the RUC...) we have examined which directly facilitated Rosemary Nelson’s murder’. That is unambiguous and overarching.”

The report, released last Monday, detailed how RUC members “had legitimised her as a target” by publicly abusing her and assaulting her on the Garvaghy Road in 1997, adding that within Special Branch and at RUC headquarters Mrs Nelson was regarded as a supporter of the IRA.

According to Mr Turkington, the report does not say the RUC failed to protect Mrs Nelson, but “speaks of omissions by the RUC and NIO which rendered her more vulnerable”.

Mr Turkington said that the observations made had to “be read in conjunction with the findings of the Canadian Judge Cory’s report in 2004” into Mrs Nelson’s death, where he noted that “in November 1993 a specially trained officer made four visits in one week to her office to discuss personal and work-related security.”

Mrs Nelson was killed in March 1999 after a bomb was placed under her BMW near her Lurgan home. She represented high profile clients like Lurgan republican Colin Duffy and Garvaghy Road Residents.