Inquiry into Nelson murder begins

A public inquiry into the loyalist murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson is getting underway today more than six years after her death.

The hearing into one of the most controversial killings during three decades of violence in Northern Ireland will hear from over 100 witnesses and is expected to last at least a year.

Retired High Court judge Michael Morland is chairing the three-member panel examining claims the security forces colluded with the loyalists who killed the lawyer with an under-car bomb which exploded as she drove away from her Lurgan, Co Armagh, home in March 1999.

Mr Morland is pledging: “The Rosemary Nelson Inquiry seeks to find out the truth. We are here to work with fairness, thoroughness and impartiality to establish the facts and to make recommendations.”

He is sitting with the former Chief Constable of South Wales, Anthony Burden and Valerie Strachan, former chair of the UK's Board of Customs and Excise.

Mr Morland will make an opening statement to the hearing today in the Craigavon Civic Centre in Co Armagh, but public sessions are not expected to begin until the autumn.

Administrative and legal staff will first spend several months checking law and analysing all existing police investigation files.

An inquiry spokesman said: “We are currently bringing together relevant documents, identifying and tracking down additional material and deciding which people will be asked to provide statements and give oral evidence.

“It seems likely the list will exceed 100.”

Allegations of security force collusion surrounding controversial killings were investigated on behalf of the Government by retired Canadian judge Peter Cory who found there was enough evidence of possible collusion to warrant further investigation.

The inquiry is the first of four due to be held in Northern Ireland and a fifth in the Republic.

Judge Cory also called for tribunals into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, the killing in the Maze Prison of Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright and the mob attack which killed Catholic man Robert Hamill in Lurgan.

The Irish Government has also agreed to hold an inquiry into the IRA murders of two senior RUC officers, Bob Buchanan and Harry Breen who were ambushed on the border while returning North from a meeting with counterparts in the Republic.

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