Page last updated at 08:32 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 09:32 UK

Troubles team 'should be merged'

Dave Cox and Phillip James of the HET
The HET is investigating unsolved murders

The police team examining Troubles era killings should merge with the Police Ombudsman's office, a former ombudsman has said.

The Historical Enquiries Team was set-up three years ago and given a budget of 34m over six years to examine more than 3,200 deaths.

But now, halfway through its task, it is expected they will need up to three more years to complete their work.

Former Police Ombudsman Dame Nuala O'Loan said a merger would make sense.

"There needs to be a single unit comprising the HET and historic investigations from the police ombudsman," she said.

Sir Hugh Orde

We felt we had duty to victim's families - who were obviously becoming older as the investigations went on

Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde

"It would be more cost effective because they would not both be investigating the same cases, on occasion in parallel, which is very difficult.

"It would be independent of the PSNI and RUC - which would answer a lot of the problems some relatives currently have."

Mrs O'Loan also questioned whether it was right for the Historical Enquiries Team to do its work chronologically, starting from 1968.

But the PSNI Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde, said he believed that was the best way.

"It was logical to start from the beginning," he said.

"It was also logical because we felt we had duty to victim's families who were obviously becoming older as the investigations went on - that's why we started from the beginning.

"I don't think there's a right way of doing it I think this was our best guess."

The HET's director, Dave Cox, said on Wednesday that they had only got as far as 1974 and would need an extra three years.

The team, which is based in Lisburn, County Antrim, and employs 180 people, has used up half of the 34m allocated to it.

"I think it unlikely, indeed, that we will have looked at all the cases by the original six-year period," he said.

"I would anticipate there would be an over-run of certainly two, maybe three years."

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