NI Police Ombudsman: “we have no evidence of a deliberate action…”

The Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson’s report on the investigation into the murder of 6 people in Loughinisland by the UVF in 1994 has been published.  To the anger of the relatives of those killed.

Al Hutchinson’s comments in the UTV report sum up his position, and the problem for those relatives.

“The families believe there is broad state collusion, our remit is only to focus on police actions, I have said there no collusion in two incidents and insufficient evidence of collusion in another”, Mr Hutchinson said.

“This means there are inconsistencies that are not explainable in the actions of one particular police officer and we have explored that, and we have no evidence of a deliberate action and therefore it is not collusion by definition”, he added.

The NI Police Ombudsman’s full report is available here [pdf file].

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  • perseus

    even so the police apologised for the mess they made of the investigation.
    The getaway car being destroyed .. my god.
    that would have been a DNA investigators paradisio.
    so that raises suspicions … why?

  • andnowwhat

    Nuala O’ Loans comments on her preference for Judge Peter Corry’s definition is interesting. She comes on 22 minutes in to the show.

  • slappymcgroundout

    Since we had a thread on SF not accepting Kingsmill will there be one on Ms. Ritchie not accepting this report?

    Lastly, a rather poor investigation and a rather poor Ombudsman’s write up. Rather skimpy on the details of the forensics. Should be partial or whole prints in the rubber and other gloves and all of them should have skin from which a DNA sample can be obtained. Yet no mention of what, exactly, the forensic examination, if any, of those items revealed. Ditto the car. The car would have other evidence in addition to any DNA, hair, etc., to include mud, soil, etc.

  • andnowwhat

    Slappy, can Al be forced to retract the findings?

  • Mick Fealty
  • slappymcgroundout


    I don’t know as I am lawyer here in the US and not where you are and so I do not know how exactly your Ombudsman scheme works.

    By the way, my reference to “investigation” was not to the Ombudsman’s investigation as the report is so bad that I cannot determine the quality of the investigation (that itself is troubling, and not in the sense that I think “coverup” but if you are trying to instill confidence you write the best damn report possible). The reference to “investigation” is to the underlying RUC investigation (which makes them look, frankly, incompetent).

    Sorry I couldn’t be of more help re what remedy someone might have re the report but I just don’t know.

  • Rory Carr

    “Insufficient evidence” seems to be the keynote of this report. The victims’ families and the wider nationalist community (including myself who knew some of the victims and who was a frequent visitor to the area in my youth) feel there is an insufficiency about this report alright. But it is not an insufficiency of evidence that troubles us. It is an insufficient will on behalf of the Ombudsman to follow where the evidence led and an insufficient mustering of courage to take the road less travelled and delve into those areas where existing evidence ought surely have taken him.

    The worst of all conclusions, where the realtives are left with little doubt but that the police colluded in the murders of their loved ones but worse, that now they know for certain that the state will not take any steps to uncover those who colluded and that the killers and those in law enforcement who assisted them will remain free because, as this report demonstrates with a devestating crushing of all their hopes, the state has not the will to bring to justice the murderously criminal elements who once acted as its agents.

  • South Belfast Hack

    There does seem to be a trend emerging; that when people agree with the outcome of a report or inquiry then it has reached the correct conclusion. When people don’t like the outcome or it doesn’t suit their political prejudices then it’s wrong or worse a white-wash.

  • andnowwhat

    Thank you Slappy.

    There seems to be too many wholes and unexplored rocks to give the conclusions validity.

    Having said that, the parts that I have read so far seem to be in conflict with the conclusion. Obviously, that’s where the definition of collusion comes in.

  • andnowwhat

    Rory, check out the Talkback link I posted.

    Obviously, O’ Loan would never wish to undermine Al but see what you think of what she says.

  • Mick Fealty


    We are into victim territory here again. I have no doubt the families are sick waiting for this report (not least because it’s the nearest they are likely to get to bring the killers of their loved ones to justice is discovering the shortcomings of the cops who investigated).

    I also know that they will be bitterly disappointed that it falls so far short of their expectations. But I would like to know who was driving those expectations ever upwards? I would also like some forensic examination of the document so we can make a reasonable judgement of whether Hutchinson did or did not do his job properly.

    I would not be happy to see him ‘go down’ just because his conclusions were considered to be politically inconvenient, or because his conclusions don’t fit a maximalist interpretation of the word collusion.

    If you over expand it, it literally loses its original powerful meaning; which implies ‘a secret agreement’ or ‘secret understanding’ between those entrusted by the state to do or not do a given thing with anti and/or quasi state forces.

  • Drumlins Rock

    firstly I should state I don’t believe the ombudsman’s office should be dealing with historic cases, it was not part of its original remit so far as I know and as this case illustrates undermines its role, it should only deal with PSNI cases and possibly a HET of sorts can work on the historic cases.

    As for the report, yet again the oft repeated accusation of “broad state colusion” has been shown to be false, concurring with every other investigation to date I believe, almost all the shortfallings are administrative errors, including the destruction of the car, where it was the absence of an officers signature that was the issue back in the days when DNA was not a realsitic option. Of course things could have been done better, but surely “there was a war on” has some bearing on the efficency of an investigation, where staying alive till the end of your shift was a higher priority than filing.

  • Dec

    ‘almost all the shortfallings are administrative errors, including the destruction of the car, where it was the absence of an officers signature that was the issue back in the days when DNA was not a realsitic option.’

    Sorry, how was DNA not a realistic option in 1994? Unless you meant that the RUC’s ability to do anything with forensic evidence wasn’t realistic given that the report states there had been “inconsistencies” in how police took hair, fingerprint and DNA samples from more than half of suspects or that in some cases suspects were not even fingerprinted or DNA tested.

    Why do I suspect that some people haven’t read the report yet still feel compelled to rush on here to agree with its findings.

  • Regarding the shortcomings in the forensic examination, I don’t know the answer, but are some people overstating the abilities back then. Forensic science has made huge strides forward in the past 20 years.

  • HeinzGuderian

    This *collusion*,so oft the comfort blanket of our nat/rep chums,seems to be another green tinted illusion !!

    The scum who carried out the atrocity at Loughinisland are just that,SCUM.

    But why every *loyalist* atrocity has to be linked with the RUC or UDR,I cannot comprehend ?

  • HeinzGuderian

    Jebus wept………….I’m on another Yellow ? 😉

  • slappymcgroundout


    I am not going to take a position, so please don’t think that I am, but for the omission type of collusion, would have to be more than “mere” incompetence. Would have to be the deliberate failure to act according to duty. Would not have to be agreed on either, which is why I don’t necessarily like the word “collusion” as the be all, end all of this type of inquiry. For example, the police have no prior arrangement with those who perpetrated the killing but after the fact, for reasons of their own, they purposely fail to conduct a proper investigation. That would not be “collusion” (“conspiracy”) but would be gross police misconduct. And if that were a practice that became known to some others, would not only allow one/some to escape one crime but might facilitate further crime.

    By the way, the folks who did the crime are nitwits. Isn’t the usual practice where you are to torch the car? And they should presumably have also torched the gloves, etc. Should have also, if they killed everyone in the bar so no one left to cause trouble, took the time to recover the shell casings. And after torching the car, the gloves, etc., disposed of the weapons and casings as well. These days, with the much improved forensic technology, knowing how to dispose of potential evidence is as important as knowing how to plan the crime. Perhaps more important (since attempted crime is always a lesser offense than the completed crime, so if you botch the crime and get caught early enough you’ll only go down for attempt, whereas if you complete the crime and your inadequate failure to destroy the evidence leads to your subsequent arrest, trial and conviction you’ll do the time for the completed offense)(that’s how being a lawyer affects your thought process, you start thinking in terms of more important to have a plan for destroying the evidence than a plan for committing the crime).

  • keano10

    I have’nt read the report so I cant comment. But ultimately, like Kingsmills, it’s the grief of families which is the heartbreaking part of it all. Its hard to avoid being drawn into victim territory as Mick puts it. I think one of the men gunned down that night was 87 years old. There’s not a lot you can say really…

  • nightrider

    The collusion meme seems to have caught on to every event in the troubles.
    Why would the Police/MI5/Army have colluded in a pathetic-montrous mass murder of innocent people watching a football game? Did they collude at Greysteel as well? it doesn’t make sense.
    There was no purpose (that i can see) to it other than pure hatred.
    The incompetence I can buy, not the political overcoat.
    This kind of lets the actual murderers off the hook if we buy the state intervention catch all subtext.

  • Rory Carr

    Whatever happened to Henry Kelly’s confident assertion in The Guardian back in 2009:

    “A report into the police’s handling of one of the last major atrocities of the Troubles will reveal that four security force agents were aware that the Ulster Volunteer Force was planning the Loughinisland massacre.”

    McDonald was also confident enough of his sources to reveal this comment from “security sources” which clearly suggests the type of connivance necessary to establish collusion if we follow Mick’s link above to a definition of “collusion” established by the Billy Wright Inquiry:

    “Security sources said this weekend that the investigation will highlight the role of informers inside the UVF who ordered or helped organise the attack on the Heights bar in June 1994. Those mentioned but not named by Al Hutchinson, the police ombudsman, included men who provided the car used to take the killers to and from the County Down village.”

    Full article here:

    I am not concerned either with seeing Hutchinson “go down”, as Mick puts it, “just because his conclusions were considered to be politically inconvenient,” (the charge, if any, from me would be rather that they were too politically convenient). But it is not political convenience or inconvenience that concerns me here nor indeed any wrestling match between the Hutchinson – O’Loan definitions of collusion, although it is at least of some concern that Hutchinson choose to refine his definition away from that already established by Stevenson, Judge Corey and his predcessor. As Nuala O’Loan remarked on Talkback in relation to inadequicies in investigatory procedures, the question always to ask is, “Why?” – a question that might well be asked of Hutchinson – “Why did you feel it necessary to narrow the definition of “collusion” in this particular inquiry?” What bothers me is that, along with the families, I am left with a strong suspicion that Hutchinson, at the very least, had a failure of nerve and that that failure has, unwittingly or not, assisted in the cover-up of a great wrong. Knowing what they do of police collusion in the deaths of their loved ones the families have no choice but to reject Hutchinson’s findings and press on. I wish them well.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yep keano, that was Barney Greene. A despicable murder, not to mention downright cowardly like most killing of innocents in this era.

    Dec, DNA profiling was first made commercially available in 1987. Not sure how widespread/reliable it was by 1994

    HG, it will go red, again, if you don’t stop trolling/taking p!ss… Your wind up routines are not appreciated when some of us are trying to debate seriously.

  • Mick Fealty

    Kelly or McDonald Rory?

  • slappymcgroundout

    “Regarding the shortcomings in the forensic examination, I don’t know the answer, but are some people overstating the abilities back then. Forensic science has made huge strides forward in the past 20 years.”

    I didn’t short the forensic exam, but the report of the forensic exam, i.e., no details. I know that they apparently don’t have a match, or else someone would have been arrested and charged, but they could have told us that a partial print was found here, a hair there, etc. The only part of the little specifics they do have if the report that nothing useful came back from the car. By the way, there is other forensics not even hinted at in this report. Note the part of the report that speaks to what kind of ammo, i.e., Chinese and so not issued to security forces (which, by the way, does not rule out security force involvement since presumably they would not be so stupid as to issue their own ammo). But in line with Chinese made ammo, how about the gloves? Not every rubber glove is the same, meaning slightly different formula/composition for each company. If they could isolate the manufacturer of the gloves they could find out where in NI such gloves were sold and work from there. Could also have checked the gas tank, the fuel, since each gas company has its own additives, here that would be finding out whether Texaco, or whoever made the gas. Might even be more than one “brand” of gas and so you’d have two or more leads to work from. Don’t know whether they did any of that as it isn’t in the report.

    Lastly, re another comment:

    in the days when DNA was not a realsitic option

    No, DNA was an option. First rape conviction based on DNA evidence was 1987.

  • Slappy,

    Thanks for the info.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Just to put things in context of 1994, here is Sutton’s list of deaths for that year, quite horrific to put it mildly.

    As for DNA, in a case like this it probably would only be low copy DNA that is available, first used in a NI case in 2000, but partially discredited in the Sean Hoey trial.

    Looking back would a perfect police investigation achieved any better results in 1994?

  • Dec


    I’m not in a position to comment on the scientific reliability of DNA sampling in 1994 but clearly the RUC had a process in place which in this case was followed inconsistently or not followed at all. How on earth did members of the RUC arrest suspects and NOT take their fingerprints?

    Even if you accept Hutchinson’s findings regarding colusion we’re receiving yet more evidence of an organisation that was entirely unfit for purpose if not criminally incompetent. And people herald this as a vindication of the RUC?

  • nightrider

    It’s only natural human behaviour to pattern seek and attribute responsibility accordingly. thus the ‘collusion’ meme. It was the state wot done it. Random acts of sectarian killing leave the relatives of victims thinking ‘Why me, why us?’ So an external agency (the RUC/Army/Govt) have to be factored in to fit the jigsaw. Even if the jigsaw parts don’t fit.
    The UVF appear as unwitting pawns according to the conspiracy theory, not pure sectarian murderers.
    However, the killers were not local. Probably Belfast so why Loughinisland? The answer may lie not too far from that little hamlet.

  • Mick Fealty


    Neither am I. Competence is def a question arising. But collusion and what it actually means is an important question too. The time for creative ambiguity is long gone.

  • Rory Carr

    Henry McDonald of course, Mick, not Henry Kelly . Apologies to both (and to our readers).

    I remember Henry Kelly when he was northern editor of Irish Times at the beginning of the Troubles and then, finding it difficult to comprehend when I spotted him some years later compering a tv quiz show. I somehow felt embarrassed as though I had inadvertently walked in on someone during the course of a very private act. I suppose there must have been something subconciously judgemental at the root of that feeling which was quite unworthy, snobbish even.

  • RG Cuan

    From report:

    5.60 – Evidence has been received that Police Officer 7, who had been concerned about overcrowding in the yard, had submitted a report seeking authorisation for disposal of the car. This officer was not aware of the connection with The Heights Bar murders. Due to the fact that there are no records in relation to this request, it has not been possible to identify who authorized the disposal. Police custom and practice at that time was that a senior officer should have given this authorisation.

    5.61 – It has been established that Police Officer 8, who was a senior officer, had no recollection of authorising the disposal of the car.

    That an officer, based at a station as small as Saintfield, didn’t know that a car in the station’s yard was linked to a local massacre that happened just a number of weeks before is beyond belief.

    I think the somewhat apologetic tone of Hutchinson’s foreword also says a lot.

  • RG Cuan

    As a note on the side, it’s interesting that the report has also been password encrypted so that text from it cannot be copied or pasted. No other PDF document on the Ombudsman’s website has this feature.

    It certainly makes the work of any journalist examining the report that bit more difficult… hopefully just a coincidence!

  • Cynic2

    My God, in three reports in a row there’s no evidence of collusion. How shocking.

    No wonder Nationalists are up in arms and Margaret ‘Disaster for Her Party’ Ritchie showed out in her true sectarian colours and now wants the Ombudsman to go because he didn’t reach the ‘right’ conclusions.

  • I remember as a kid being taught that there were two principal categories of sin; sins of commission and sins of omission.

  • ayeYerMa

    Nationalists are being manipulated by Sinn Fein with this endless “collusion” nonsense, and for their own sake need to realise it.

    The people that carried out these horrific acts are simply MURDERING TERRORIST SCUM, the same type of MURDERING TERRORIST SCUM as those now swaggering about Stormont in Armani suits under the Sinn Fein banner. Sinn Fein want to be let off the hook for similar horrific acts by trying to justify them – trying to justify them by pretending that the overwhelming majority of the police forces who were merely trying to uphold law and order (“Crown Forces” in Shinnerspeak since 1916) were just as much “combatants” as they were.

    Nationalists need to stop playing along with this game of manipulation and stand together with their Unionist neighbours and speak together as ONE COMMUNITY – one community that can speak with a one cohesive voice against ALL of these lowlife thugs.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Agree with comment from earlier – Loyalist murderers should be the target for the vitriol here. The police had a much greater success rate against Loyalists than against Republicans. There does seem to be an agenda to try to blame the security forces as much as possible for the Loyalist murder campaign. Is it coincidental that nationalism for a long time clung to the notion – taken apart by Steve Bruce and other scholars – that Loyalist terrorists were merely the pawns of the British state? It was part of the same “colonial” theory that tried to explain away the Ulster British population as un-self-aware dupes, suffering from “false consciousness”. Surely that has nothing to do with a focus on exploring collusion (rather than, say, any of the 60 per cent of Troubles killings carried out by Irish Republicans)?

    Don’t get me wrong, if and where collusion happened it should be exposed etc. But where money is finite and investigations into Troubles incidents limited, you have to ask why some people might prioritise exploring collusion allegations over other incidents. Not being too cynical I hope, but these guys have previous.

  • RUC , Collusion ? NEVER ! Al switch the light off on your way out, your not fit for purpose.

  • Banjaxed

    Repeat the mantra, ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    Al Hutchinson is a former RCMP Assistant Commissioner.
    An (ex)-cop investigating cops. Why do we continue to be surprised at his findings?
    To paraphrase Mrs Beeton, ‘First, catch your investigator’.

  • Cynic2

    ” An (ex)-cop investigating cops.”

    Yeah. Imaging using someone trained to investigate to investigate. Its obvious that he’ll be part of the conspiracy. All cops are the same- excluding the PSNI Of course, bless them.

  • Banjaxed

    Therefore, Cynic2, while Nuala O’Loan was in post was it a mere coincidence that she was both loathed and feared by ‘Ulster’s Finest’ because of her diligence? And do you think it’s another coincidence that a feather duster was appointed in her place? Look at the complete hames Hutchinson made of his last report – that of McGurk’s Bar when he issued one report then did a 180 degree flip-flop completely changing his original findings.

    Even if you park the collusion conspiracy and lean towards total incompetence on the RUC’s handling of the atrocity, then I would agree that Al Hutchinson is well qualified in that field.

  • Comrade Stalin


    firstly I should state I don’t believe the ombudsman’s office should be dealing with historic cases, it was not part of its original remit so far as I know

    I believe this is incorrect. The powers of the Ombudsman to investigate complaints are enumerated in the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998. Section 55, subsection 5 allows the Ombudsman to initiate an investigation into any matter where he believes a police officer may have committed a criminal or disciplinary offence, if he considers it to be in the public interest.

    It was very clear to everyone at the time that the Ombudsman had the right to initiate investigations into historic cases, and several such investigations have taken place to date – I believe the enquiries into the Robert Hamill murder and the Nelson murder were done this way.

    In general terms, I find it hard not to be sympathetic with Hutchinson’s report. Margaret Ritchie complained that she wasn’t happy with the idea that these matters can be explained away by RUC operational incompetence (I’m quite sure that Margaret is, sadly, playing tribal games here), but the fact of the matter is that we are rapidly getting a picture of a police force which is poorly trained and equipped to properly investigate serious crime. The first real indications of this came during the Omagh bomb trial where the judge roundly berated the police over their handling of DNA evidence.

    Never ascribe to malice what can easily be ascribed to incompetence, etc.

  • Cynic2

    ” Nuala O’Loan ……….was both loathed and feared by ‘Ulster’s Finest’ because of her diligence? ”

    ….and what did she produce that proved of lasting value? How many complaints against police now result in action against police officers?

  • Cynic2

    “I’m quite sure that Margaret is, sadly, playing tribal games here”

    What was it the Americans said in that leaked cable

    ” it is not yet clear if she possesses either the political muscle or innovative ideas to lead the party”

    I think it is more and more clear now. She doesn’t. She is developing into the Sprite Zero of Nationalist politics. All fizz. No substance.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Cynic, the (large) majority of complaints were never taken any further even when O’Loan was in charge.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Loughinisland is about the most peaceful and law-abiding community in Ireland. Yet on the two occasions it was brutally violated by criminal terrorists, its innocent victims, the wounded, the families and their community were failed by governments and their agents particularly the police and Ombudsman.

    Details about the1994 UVF massacre, failures by police, cover-up, and evidence of ‘state’ collusion are now well known.

    The Loughinisland connection to the Northern Bank robber tends to be forgotten. In December 2004, IRA terrorists violated the sanctity of a home, brutally abducted a bank manager’s wife, held her tied up, blindfolded in the freezing cold of a derelict shed for more than24, while her husband was coerced into assisting the terrorists to help rob his employers of more than £26m, after which his wife was released in the middle of a dense forest, in the middle of a dark winter night.

    As in the pub massacre, the Secretary of State and Chief Constable, promised swift and certain justice, with full accountability. Police on the ground did the same and again got good community support. The outcome was similar to the pub massacre – no justice and no accountability.

    One is left only with the view that, in both cases, and in the interests of political expediency, the requirements for justice, accountability and the needs of victims were deliberately set aside- state collusion?

    In the first case it was politically expedient not reveal evidence of collusion and probable involvement of police informers. With the bank robbery it was expedient to keep Sinn Fein within the peace process tent at any price – even if that meant illegally funding a big IRA pay-off.

    In both incidents the suspicion remains that the State, whether by commission or omission, was complicit in major crime. Even for the State, evil actions can never be justified by reference to good intentions. As criminals and terrorists ‘the end does not justify the means’.

  • tacapall

    “In both incidents the suspicion remains that the State, whether by commission or omission, was complicit in major crime. Even for the State, evil actions can never be justified by reference to good intentions. As criminals and terrorists ‘the end does not justify the means.

    Why unlike the kingmills report are we not given the history of the weapons used in the attack, the PSNI decided to withhold this information, Why ? Why was the ombudsman not able to confirm or deny that agents of the state were involved in procuring the car used in the attack. Questions remain unanswered about the allegations that a serving police had possession of the car used, did he have it or not, a file was sent to the PPS but no action was taken, why not say the allegations were untrue.

    This report is just smoke and mirrors, a cover up of not only the protection of state agents but those who controlled them. The story given by those investigating the origins of the car and its owners was unbelievable. Interview notes destroyed, forensic evidence destroyed, the leading investigating officer refusing to co-operate with the inquiry. Al Hutchinson is not an independant investigator, he and his enquiries are being directed by those who have a vested interest in obscuring the boundries of truth as to their roles and the roles of their agents in the murders of citizens of this country.

  • streetlegal

    It seems to me that there are two possible explanations. Either the RUC in 1994 was staffed and managed by officers so ignorant and incompetent that they would have failed to meet the standard of the Keystone Cops.

    The second explanation is that Special Branch, in association of British Intelligence, exercised their influence over senior RUC commanders to ensure that no effective investigation would be pursued.

    Knowing what we already know of Special Branch and British Intelligence operations the second explanation seems most likely. For the media to get hung up on the definition of collusion misses the point and once again lets the authorities off the hook.

  • vanhelsing

    @streetlegal “The second explanation is that Special Branch, in association of British Intelligence, exercised their influence over senior RUC commanders to ensure that no effective investigation would be pursued.

    Knowing what we already know of Special Branch and British Intelligence operations the second explanation seems most likely.”

    I assume you also know the location of Shergar, and is Lord Lucan or Elvis riding him? Sorry a little harsh:)

    I’m sick of people trying rewrite the findings of these enquires based on their own qualitative evidence / conspiracy theory and we see plenty of it on Slugger. You know what, maybe just maybe there actually wasn’t any structured collusion…

    …you know what it wouldn’t actually matter which ‘side’ it was – if these enquiries don’t give the result that some people want – well hell – they’re either:

    1. Wrong
    2. It’s clearly a cover up [usually of course involving MI5]
    3. They got the incorrect result because they didn’t get the correct evidence from the interviews
    4. They were influenced through current political pressure
    etc etc

    What is the BLOODY point of a enquiry if EVERYONE will whine about it if they don’t get the result they want.

    The only one they seemed to get right was Bloody Sunday and that cost £200 mill – all to the Lawyers!!!

    BAN them ALL and spend the money on either cross community events or a hospital somewhere!

  • Lionel Hutz

    Van Helsing,

    I’m not sure which other enquiry was wrong???

    The Rosemary Nelson enquiry was accepted by the family and the community. The argument was around interpretation of the collusion questionas the report quite helpfully in my view didn’t use collusion as a termin its report..

    Ohhh, only around a quarter of the Saville Money went to the lawyers. It actually cost so much because of the Army’s attempts to frustrate it.