A PUBLIC inquiry has found that there was “no evidence” of state collusion in the murder of Lurgan solicitor Rosemary Nelson.
However, the report said it could not rule out the possibility that “rogue members” of the RUC tipped off the bombers that the “coast was clear” to plant the deadly device.
It also said that the security forces “failed to take reasonable and proportionate steps to safeguard the life of Rosemary Nelson”.
The report’s authors, Sir Michael Morland, Dame Valerie Strachan and Sir Anthony Burden, also believed the leaking of police intelligence files “increased the danger to Rosemary Nelson’s life”.
The report did not believe there was anything suspicious about security force activity near her home in the run up to her murder.
The 505 page report, which was released on Monday, details how RUC members had “legitimised Mrs Nelson as a target” by publicly abusing and assaulting her during the Drumcree dispute two years before her death.
In addition, the report states that:
• “in assessing whether or not Rosemary Nelson’s life was at risk, RUC Special Branch failed to take into account all the intelligence and the open information available to them”;
• “RUC management negligently failed to intervene to prevent their officers from uttering abuse and threats to defence solicitors, including Rosemary Nelson”;
• “Local RUC management failed to follow through promised action to pay special attention to Rosemary Nelson’s office and home addresses”;
• “there was no analysis or evaluation of intelligence relevant to Rosemary Nelson”;
• “there was a corporate failure by the RUC to warn Rosemary Nelson of her vulnerability and offer her security advice”.
The Inquiry also found that former RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flannagan privately described Mrs Nelson as an “immoral woman”.
Mr Flannagan’s decision not to offer her security advice was also identified as a “missed opportunity”. He later said he regretted the decision.
The £46.5 million report also described how loyalist murderer Trevor McKeown, later convicted of killing 18-year-old Craigavon woman Berandette Martin, told the News Of The World that “RUC detectives urged him to murder” the human rights lawyer.
It was alleged that “an officer told him that he should have shot Rosemary Nelson instead of Bernadette Martin and goaded him as to whether he would be prepared to do so”.
The officer accused of having made the remarks denied the allegation.
The inquiry discounted certain aspects of Mr McKeown’s account, but said “we are unable to dismiss his allegations”.
The report also highlights the fact that threats against Mrs Nelson’s life were not taken seriously by the RUC.
The inquiry said: “There were omissions by state agencies, which rendered Rosemary Nelson more at risk and more vulnerable”.
In June 1998 an envelope sent to the solicitor’s office in William Street contained an anonymous note with the words “We have our sights on you Republican b*****d we will teach you a lesson. RIP’”
The report said: “The fact that this material had been in the possession of the authorities and that no action had apparently been taken was seen as a failure to protect Rosemary Nelson.”
The Northern Ireland Office also came under criticism for failing to press police on the case of the solicitor’s murder.