The problem with witnesses..

Is that they can’t be relied upon to accurately remember events. Thankfully the Police Ombudsman’s Office had some actual evidence to work with in the investigation of the death of a pedestrian struck by a police landrover in June 2005. So, despite the many witnesses who told the Ombudsman that they were “quite clear that they did not hear a siren” from the landrover which hit Jim McMenamin, who died from his injuries, the investigation concluded that recordings of the in-car radio communication proved that the siren was sounding both before, and after, the accident.From the Ombudsman’s statement today

As a result of house-to-house inquiries, media appeals and following meetings within the community the investigators interviewed a number of people who were in the area at the time of the incident. Police documentation was also seized, including copies of the radio transmissions.

Of the people who offered witnesses statements only one person actually saw the collision. According to the witness, he had been driving along the Springfield Road when he saw the police ‘jeep’ with blue lights flashing pass him on the other side of the road. When he looked in his rear view mirror he saw was a young man standing at the junction, then saw him run across the road before being hit.

However, other witnesses said they saw the speeding Land Rover pass them and while it has its blue lights on, it had no siren.

The Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala OLoan, said her investigators have listened to the radio transmissions which they seized shortly after the incident:

“The sirens can be clearly heard when an officer in the Land Rover responded to the call on his radio and almost one minute later after the collision when he requested for an ambulance.

We have checked and established that there was no other emergency vehicle in the area at the time. From that fact, and the volume of the noise of the siren, we have concluded that the vehicle did in fact have its siren on.

One slight point to highlight though. The Ombudsman also had something to say about those witnesses.

I am aware that many of the witnesses we talked to were quite clear that they did not hear a siren. I am also very conscious that the issue of whether or not the siren was on became a major issue in the media: maybe the subsequent coverage effected people’s recollection of events,” she said.

If the subsequent media coverage might have effected people’s recollection, so too could their own prejudices..

Sinn Fein has said local residents were concerned about police behaviour during the incident.

“There is serious disquiet in the local community, shared by the family, that the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) handling of Saturday`s incident gives cause for real concern,” the West Belfast MP said.

“Many serious questions need to be answered about the circumstances surrounding the killing of Jim McMenamin, the role of the PSNI and its behaviour immediately after the incident.

“The family wants no cover-up. They want the truth.”

..and, perhaps, so too could the involvement of third-parties in gathering those witness statements.

I am appealing to anyone who saw anything or who has any information to bring that forward and speak to the Office of the Police Ombudsman which is carrying out an investigation into this incident.

“It is important that this is done in conjunction with a solicitor and members of my staff have this morning spoken both the Office of the Police Ombudsman and to local community groups to try and ensure that all of this is done speedily.”

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  • againstthehead

    no doubt the securocrats managed to infiltrate the radio records and added in the siren.

    is there going to be an investigation into the ‘witnesses’ that heard ‘nothing’?

  • peter

    All witnesses were suffering from hearing problems due to a loyalist feeder parade which passed by earlier that evening

  • observer

    everyone knows psni sirens operate at a frequency not audible to catholics, sheer discrimination that what it is

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    Talking about prejudices so authoritatively as Pete does, it seems that some of the posters here have carried a great deal of prejudices with them also.

    It’s not a very difficult thing to do, you know, to add in a siren to a recording. It would be quite simple actually if you had access to the right equpment. I’m not suggesting this was fixed – however I do think it’s possible it happened and it wouldn’t be outside the bounds of possibility that evidence incriminating the police was tampered with by the police……

  • Token Dissent

    Oilibhear Chromaill – superb analysis. Personally I think that the Securocrats called in Brian Eno or Phil Spector to produce the re-mastered radio recording. You know, for extra authenticity.

    It is stated that the recordings were “seized shortly after the incident”.

    A tragic death appears to have been used, by some ‘witnesses’ and others, for political reasons.

    Amongst all of this the pain of the bereaved family must be remebered.

  • observer

    the latest remix from the Police – Sirens and silence , catchy

  • grumbleweed

    Whether the siren was on or not what happened here was an accident and I don’t think anyone doubts that.

    Why has this become yet another political football?

    Besides, aren’t we taught from no age to follow the Green Cross Code? If you run out on the road in front of a large oncoming vehicle with blue flashing lights, well… who else is to blame for your abject human stupidity?

  • Shore Road Resident

    Oilibhear *still* hasn’t got the memo.
    He’ll need to watch out or he could find himself as suddenly surplus to media requirements as Danny Morrison.

  • SuperSoupy
  • Token Dissent

    Soupy, I don’t get your point. Of course the cops want “all relevant information”. In this case it appears that a lot of the statements brought forward were deliberately mis-leading.

    Any response from Sinn Fein on the report?

  • Briso

    Posted by Token Dissent on Apr 18, 2007 @ 12:01 AM
    >a lot of the statements brought forward were
    >deliberately mis-leading.

    You don’t know that. People’s recollections are unreliable and are affected by what is happening at the time, what happens after, and, not to get too philosophical about it, everything that has ever happened to them in their lives up to the point of testimony (or put rather pejoratively, their predjudices)! This doesn’t imply deliberate falsehood.

    Pete put it perfectly: “The problem with witnesses..Is that they can’t be relied upon to accurately remember events.”

  • BogExile

    After the endorsement of policing in 2007, residents of west Belfast were informed by Sinn Fein that they could now hear police sirens. Previously sirens were banned by Sinn fein to deprive the PSNI of the ‘oxygen of legitimacy.’

  • idunnomeself

    Pete, thank you for following up on this and providing a really high quality post

  • mnob

    Just one very pedantic point – ‘effected’ and ‘affected’ are two different words with very different meanings but often confused.