Outside force could probe bomb atrocity

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The Independent Online

A team of police officers from outside Northern Ireland may be brought in to head a new inquiry into the Omagh bomb atrocity, Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan said today.

He has considered the use of external expertise in talks with Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary in a move to try to reassure the victims' families there will be no let up in the hunt for the bombers.

Sir Ronnie told PA News: "If that's what it takes to reassure victims that no stone will be left unturned in this investigation, which remains current and live, then we will bring in a team from outside."

This would not be his first request for a team of police officers from Britain to be sent to Northern Ireland to launch a fresh inquiry.

Colin Port, the Deputy Chief Constable of Norfolk, has been in Northern Ireland since spring, 1999 heading the inquiry into the murder of human rights solicitor Rosemary Nelson.

She was killed by loyalist booby trap bomb under her car in Lurgan, Co Armagh, in March 1999.

Police resources investigating the Omagh atrocity have been scaled down dramatically, and with nobody yet charged with any of the murders there has been criticism by the families that not enough was being done.

All the members of the Real IRA who were involved have been identified but police claim they have insufficient evidence to bring any of them to trial.

Sir Ronnie said today: "The families and the victims have been through far too much already. I don't think this (bringing in an outside team) will be any more effective than our own team doing it.

"But I think now that all these leaks have been placed in the public domain, I am determined to take all steps I can to provide as much reassurance as possible to the victims.

"We've had external teams before for different reasons. But I want those families to have every reassurance that every lead will be followed up in this investigation."

The initial investigation into Omagh was headed by Detective Chief Superintendent Eric Anderson. He left the Royal Ulster Constabulary a year ago, and since then progress has been at a virtual standstill.

Detectives considered widening the investigation to try to bring charges because the team which bombed Omagh was also linked to a series of other explosions in the run–up to August 1998.

Sir Ronnie spoke with some of the families in the aftermath of the claims against the Special Branch.

He added: "I'm heartbroken that families who have already been through so much are being put through needless further trauma ... Outside this circle of victims of Omagh I feel this as deeply as any other human being."

The Chief Constable denied bringing in an outside team was a sign of desperation.

He said: "Above all, I am interested in the feelings of the victims of this atrocity. People are casting aspirations on the RUC investigation and I want to take all possible steps to allay any fears and provide as much reassurance for these families.

"I think it's possible these people (the bombers) can be got. We will not give up all hope, but at the same time I wouldn't want to give rise to false hope."