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BBC NI cheif security correspondent Brian Rowan:
"The police ombudsman has more powers than the old Independent Police Complaints Commission"
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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Police dispute Hamill arrests order
Robert Hamill
Robert Hamill died after being kicked and beaten
It has emerged that the RUC and the police ombudsman disagree about which of them ordered seven arrests, including that of an RUC reservist, in the Hamill murder case.

No-one was charged following the interrogations about the killing of Catholic Mr Hamill who was kicked to death by a loyalist mob in Portadown, County Armagh in April 1997.

RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan has said the arrests last month were carried out on the direction of the RUC.

However Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan said at the time the arrests were made under her instructions.

The arrests had been made on RUC directions, rather than on the direction of the Police Ombudsman

Sir Ronnie Flanagan

A spokesman for the ombudsman insisted on Friday that the RUC made the arrests under Mrs O'Loan's directions.

"The RUC did carry out out the arrests on the day but it was under our instructions and under our direction."

The murder has been compared to the Stephen Lawrence case.

Mr Hamill's family have called for an inquiry into witness accounts that an RUC patrol close to the attack did nothing to help.

Mrs O'Loan's office came into being last November to investigate complaints about the police in Northern Ireland.

Direct supervision

It took over active and direct supervision in the Hamill case soon after.

Last month her office issued a statement which said the arrests were "carried out by RUC officers under the direction of Police Ombudsman personnel".

However Sir Ronnie's monthly report to the Police Authority denied this.

The minutes of the authority's April meeting, said: "The Chief Constable confirmed that arrests had been made on RUC directions, rather than on the direction of the Police Ombudsman."

"The Chief Constable reminded the meeting that he had invited the Independent Commission for Police Complaints (the forerunner to the Ombudsman) to supervise the RUC investigations into the murder and that the Police Ombudsman had continued the supervision."

Nuala O'Loan says she ordered the arrests
Nuala O'Loan says she ordered the arrests
Five men and two women were arrested by the RUC under the orders of Northern Ireland's police ombudsman over matters arising from the loyalist murder of father-of-two Robert Hamill.

Mr Hamill died in hospital in May 1997 after being kicked in the head and beaten by loyalists who attacked him in the centre of Portadown, County Armagh.

Mrs O'Loan issued a statement at the time of the arrests saying she was committed to get at the truth.

"I have previously given a commitment to Mr Hamill's family and to the public that I will do all that I can and dedicate all the resources to ensure that all avenues are investigated in this case and that we get at the truth," she said.

A number of men were charged in connection with Mr Hamill's death, but nobody has been convicted of his murder.

In June 2000, Belfast Coroner James Leckey called off an inquest because of fears for the lives of certain witnesses who were to have been called to give evidence.

Robert Hamill's solicitor, Rosemary Nelson, was killed by loyalist paramilitaries when a bomb exploded under her car outside her home in Lurgan, County Armagh, in March 1999.

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See also:

11 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
Seven freed in Hamill inquiry
10 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
Seven arrested in Hamill inquiry
22 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Hamill family to meet PM
24 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Ombudsman steps into Hamill inquiry
07 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Victim's sister calls for inquiry
01 Oct 99 | Northern Ireland
Dublin concern at Hamill decision
25 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Dublin may ask for Hamill inquiry
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