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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 April, 2003, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Judge halfway into murders probe
Mr Justice Peter Cory
Peter Cory is examining the need for public inquiries into the murders
A retired Canadian judge is halfway through his examination of some of Northern Ireland's most controversial murders, it has emerged.

Peter Cory was appointed by the British and Irish Governments to investigate killings involving allegations of collusion by the security forces with paramilitaries on both sides of the Irish border.

The former Canadian supreme court judge is determining the need for public inquiries into the murders, including Catholic solicitors Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson.

The government is committed to holding a public inquiry into any of the deaths if the judge recommends it in his final report, which is expected in the autumn.

He told Secretary of State Paul Murphy on Tuesday that he had finished his investigations into the cases of loyalist leader Billy Wright and Catholic man Robert Hamill.

Pat Finucane was murdered at his home in 1989
Pat Finucane was murdered at his home in 1989
Mr Hamill, 25, who died after being attacked by loyalists in Portadown, County Armagh in 1997.

It has been claimed police in a nearby Land Rover failed to intervene.

Wright, leader of the loyalist paramilitary splinter group the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), was shot dead while serving a sentence in the Maze prison on 27 December 1997.

His father, David, has been pressing for an inquiry into his son's murder.

He believes that the authorities colluded in the murder in the high security prison.

His son, from Portadown, founded the LVF after splitting away from the mainstream paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force.

Mr Justice Cory's recommendations on these two cases are being kept at an unspecified location in Canada along with his findings on the Finucane case.

Stephens Inquiry

This comes ahead of the imminent publication of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens' new report on the 1989 murder of Mr Finucane, which will be delivered to PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde on Thursday.

I stand ready to provide any further assistance which Justice Cory requires as he pursues his investigation
Paul Murphy
Secretary of State
Since 1989, Sir John has been investigating the allegation that shadowy elements within military intelligence and the RUC Special Branch colluded with loyalist assassination squads in the murder of the solicitor at his north Belfast home.

Mr Murphy said on Tuesday: "I am most grateful to Justice Cory for taking on this important task.

"I stand ready to provide any further assistance which he requires as he pursues his investigation."

Other remaining cases Mr Justice Cory will examine include the murders of Mrs Nelson, senior RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, and Lord Justice and Lady Gibson.

Catholic mother-of-three Rosemary Nelson died in a booby-trap car bomb near her home in Lurgan, County Armagh on 15 March 1999.

High-profile solicitor Rosemary Nelson was murdered
High-profile solicitor Rosemary Nelson was murdered
There have been allegations of security force collusion in the killing because of Mrs Nelson's role as solicitor for the nationalist Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition and other high profile cases.

Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan were allegedly set up for an IRA ambush by a renegade police officer in the Republic of Ireland.

Chief Supt Breen was the highest-ranking member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to be killed by the IRA.

Lord Justice Maurice and Lady Cecily Gibson were killed by an IRA remote-controlled car bomb as they drove over the Irish border back into Northern Ireland after a holiday in April 1987.

As the judge's car reached the border, he stopped to shake hands with the Garda security escort who had completed their part of the assignment. The couple had only a short drive to meet the RUC escort to Belfast.

Some unionists have alleged that the responsibility lay with an IRA mole within the Irish Republic police force, the Garda Siochana.

The appointment of Judge Cory fulfilled a commitment made by the British and Irish Governments following the Weston Park talks in July 2001.

Judge meets murder victims' families
05 Jul 02  |  Northern Ireland
Judge to examine collusion claims
30 May 02  |  Northern Ireland
Finucane family concern at inquiry
12 Feb 03  |  Northern Ireland
Nelson murder 'could have been avoided'
31 Jan 03  |  Northern Ireland
Inquiry 'undermined' by government
31 Jul 02  |  Northern Ireland
Unresolved deaths: A question of collusion?
02 Aug 01  |  Northern Ireland

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