Hamill case before court

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Committal proceedings have begun for three defendants - including a former RUC officer and his wife - all accused of perverting justice arising from the sectarian murder of Portadown man Robert Hamill.

Retired RUC Reserve Constable Cecil Atkinson, his wife Eleanor Atkinson, both 60, and 62-year-old Kenneth Hanvey told Craigavon Magistrates’ Court they were not objecting to the Preliminary Investigation and that they understood the charges against them.

The Atkinsons, from the Brownstone Road in Portadown, are accused of conspiring with each other, and with Andrea and Michael McKee, to pervert the course of justice on diverse dates between 8 September and 30 October 1997.

Hanvey, from the Derryanvil Road, also in Portadown, is accused of perverting the course of justice on 25 November 1997.

The charges relate to what the three defendants are alleged to have told police officers investigating the identity of who made a phone call from the Atkinsons home at 08.37am the morning after Mr Hamill was attacked on 27 April 1997.

Robert Atkinson was one of four RUC personnel in a Land Rover at the scene the night Robert Hamill was attacked in the centre of Portadown by a loyalist crowd, and died in hospital 12 days later.

The charges against the husband and wife, and Hanvey, came after recommendations were made by the Hamill Inquiry into the 25-year-old’s death.

District Judge Peter King is due to hear evidence during the Preliminary Investigation, which could potentially last two weeks, before deciding whether the defendants have a case to answer before a jury in the Crown Court.