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Friday, 21 April, 2000, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Omagh investigation under review
Omagh bombing
The perpetrators of the bomb are still at large
RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan has announced that a major review of the investigation into the Omagh bombing is to be carried out.

Sir Ronnie has set up a special team of detectives to re-examine the inquiry in a new move to bring charges against dissident republicans who murdered 29 people when a bomb exploded in the County Tyrone town in August 1998.

Officers from Greater Manchester and the Metropolitan Police, including those who reviewed the Jill Dando killing, have already advised the squad, he disclosed.

The independent assessment is the first of its type to be carried out by the RUC.

Even though the chief suspects involved in the August 1998 bombing have been identified, including those who assembled the car bomb in Co Monaghan and drove it into Omagh, none has been charged because of insufficient evidence.

All have been questioned, some in the Irish Republic, where police carried out their own inquiry.

One man is to stand trial in Dublin next year in connection with the Real IRA attack.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan: This is not a criticism of current inquiry
Sir Ronnie said the review would be detailed and thorough.

He said: "We owe nothing less to the relatives.

"The original investigation was, and continues to be of the highest order, and this is merely an application of fresh minds to review everything that has been done.

"We want to be absolutely satisfied beyond any doubt there are no avenues left unexplored."

He added: "It is desperately difficult. We have very good intelligence, but intelligence in a liberal democracy does not equal evidence that can be presented before a court.

"What we are striving to do is to translate that intelligence into evidence that a court would accept. "It is frustrating for all our officers who have worked in such a dedicated way, but will not give up.

The review team based at Antrim RUC station is being headed by Chief Superintendent Brian McVicker, one of the RUC's most experienced investigators who is in charge of the CID in Belfast.

Frustration

Relatives of those killed, including the families of the three victims from Spain, were informed of the move.

Some of the families have already spoken of their frustration at the failure to charge all the terrorists responsible, but it was made clear that this review was not a fault-finding operation of the inquiry headed by Chief Superintendent Eric Anderson.

More than 2,000 people have been interviewed and over 3,000 statements taken by police.

Michael Gallagher
Michael Gallagher: Police forces should co-operate
There was also a huge forensic inquiry and a detailed probe into mobile telephone calls which enabled detectives to track the bomb team across the Irish border and into Omagh.

It also helped identify at least seven of the men they believe planned and carried out the bombing - they were all connected to a terrorist unit based in Dundalk, Co Louth.

And even though the Real IRA declared a ceasefire in the aftermath of Omagh, at least two and maybe three of those who were directly involved in the outrage have been linked to a number of terrorist incidents in Northern Ireland this year.

Nearly 80 suspects were questioned on both sides of the border.

Superintendent McVicker said: "This is not a re-investigation. We are here to support the taskforce commander (Eric Anderson) in his efforts to bring those responsible to justice."

But relatives have expresssed fears that the review could be a prelude to the scaling down of the Omagh investigation.

Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Adrian was killed, said: "The whole world knows what happened but people find it inconceivable nobody has been brought to justice. It seems to make a mockery of law and order."

Even though there has been massive co-operation between police on both sides of the border it is unlikely the RUC review team will have access to the Garda files.

But Mr Gallagher believes they should be made available. He said: "Terrorists co-operate with each other throughout the world, so why shouldn't the police.

"We are also aware of the names of the people who are suspected and we find it all so frustrating. If the FBI knew the names of those who bombed the world trade centre ... would they let them go?"

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Coulter in Belfast
"The major review is the first of its kind"
Click here for the full special report

Ombudsman report

Bomb trial verdict

Archive - the blast:

PANORAMA
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