UVF victim’s sister in legal bid for inquest

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The sister of a Lurgan 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 on Monday. Mr Marshall was ambushed along with Tony McCaughey and Colin Duffy after they left Lurgan police station in March 1990. The attack was claimed by the UVF.

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 killers launched the attack within yards of the armed troops and escaped, investigators said there was no evidence of state collusion. Efforts to secure an inquest intensified after the HET findings were published.

Ms Hewitt has issued wide-ranging proceedings against the coroner and the Department of Justice over alleged failures in startng 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 action centres on allegations the Ombudsman has not probed a complaint lodged by the family 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 that the challenge will advance to a full hearing at a later stage. Proceedings were adjourned 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 Sheils of Maddden & Finucane said an investigation may uncover further evidence of state collusion which would be pertinent for the inquest.