Robert’s family mark anniversary

FAMILY and friends yesterday marked the 15th anniversary of Robert Hamill who died 12 days after he was badly beaten in a sectarian attack in Portadown.

Mr Hamill, who lived with his family in Lurgan’s Albert Avenue at the time, had been out with friends and family in Portadown when he was attacked on April 27, 1997.

He and his friends were attacked by a loyalist mob in the Market Street/Thomas Street area after a night out at St Patrick’s Hall.

However, controversy ensured after claims police, who had been parked nearby, failed to intervene to stop the attack.

Mr Hamill suffered extensive injuries including severe brain trauma and was on a life support machine until his death on May 8, 1997.

A father of two boys Robbie’s daughter Nicole was born just 10 weeks after his death. She was never to see her father.

Six people were ultimately arrested for the murder, but only one stood trial. He was acquitted of murder and convicted of the much more minor offence of affray.

A public inquiry was held into Mr Hamill’s murder following allegations the RUC who had been on duty at the time failed to stop the attack.

The RUC claimed that officers had tried to intervene, but were overwhelmed and had to wait for reinforcements.

The Judge leading the public inquiry into the death of Mr Hamill (25) took the dramatic step of calling for the PPS to “urgently” reconsider the decision to drop the charges against Mr Atkinson, who was one of four police officers on duty in the centre of Portadown when Mr Hamill was attacked and fatally injured.

In February last year the Inquiry Chairman, Sir Edwin Jowitt, has advised the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, that the Inquiry Panel has fulfilled its Terms of Reference and has completed its Report.

A statement on its website says: “In December 2010, the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland announced that it would commence criminal proceedings against three individuals on charges of perverting the course of justice.

“The Inquiry Report will not be published until the conclusion of those legal proceedings and the Inquiry will retain formal custody of the Report until that point.

“The Report has therefore been placed in a secure independent location.”