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Wednesday, 7 June, 2000, 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK
Victim's sister calls for inquiry
Robert Hamill who was murdered in Portadown
Robert Hamill who was murdered in Portadown
The sister of a Catholic man who was kicked to death by loyalists three years ago has said her family feels let down by the judicial system in Northern Ireland.

Diane Hamill was speaking after a coroner ruled that there would be no inquest into the killing of her brother Robert, because witnesses' lives would be in danger.

Mr Hamill, from Portadown, died 12 days after being beaten and kicked by a loyalist gang in an unprovoked attack in the centre of the County Armagh town on 27 April 1997.

Sister of murder victim Robert Hamill
Diane Hamill: Only public inquiry will reveal evidence
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, his sister said: "This underlines the necessity that we have a public inquiry into Robert's murder.

"For three years we have struggled with the justice system in the north of Ireland. We have got absolutely no-where. My brother was viciously kicked to death within 20 yards of four armed RUC officers.

"Someone has to be held accountable for his murder. Any right thinking person can see that the only way forward for us is through an inquiry."

The statement from Greater Belfast Coroner John Leckey on Wednesday said he had regrettably decided not to hold an inquest due to concerns for the safety of certain witnesses.

It is understood these were civilians.

"He is satisfied their lives would be placed in danger if their evidence were to be given at, or placed in documentary form before an inquest," said the statement.

"The coroner believes that if an inquest were to be held without the evidence of these witnesses a seriously incomplete account of the circumstances of Mr Hamill's death would be given, which would not add materially to the evidence already in the public domain."

Statement from coroner

But the statement added: "The circumstances surrounding Mr Hamill's death are profoundly disturbing and but for the consideration mentioned would undoubtedly require that an inquest should be held."

Murder charges against one man, Paul Rodney Marc Hobson, were dropped in March last year but he was sentenced to four years for his part in causing a public affray.

Charges against five others were withdrawn due to lack of evidence.

The state has failed Robert Hamill and his family since the night he was murdered in April 1997

Dara O'Hagan
Police investigated claims that RUC officers failed to intervene at the scene of the attack but the Director of Public Prosecutions found there were no grounds for a case against any officer.

The coroner's statement added that the Hamill family's solicitor had agreed that no useful public purpose would be served by an inquest.

A statement from the Northern Ireland Office said that secretary of state Peter Mandelson was "concerned at the news" and had asked for "all the facts to be made available to him."

Social Democratic and Labour Party Assembly member Brid Rodgers said the move was a "serious development in a case which had already caused the deepest public concern and suspicion".

Sinn Fein Upper Bann Assembly woman Dara O'Hagan has condemned the decision as "a disgrace" and called for an independent inquiry.

"The state has failed Robert Hamill and his family since the night he was murdered in April 1997.

"The four RUC personnel who sat in a jeep as Robert was brutally kicked to death failed him and his family. The subsequent RUC investigation failed Robert, his family and all those concerned with justice and human rights.

"The legal system that failed to convict anyone for his murder also failed Robert. This latest decision strengthens the case for a totally independent inquiry," she said.

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See also:

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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