PSNI chief admits difficulties in probing bonfire attack by 20 masked men
Police chiefs in Londonderry have finally confirmed Sentinel claims that they received reports from the public that up to 20 masked men were involved in challenging youths building a bonfire in the Gobnascale area in 2010.
But they also said that not a single person was willing to make a statement and therefore could not say whether or not mainstream republicans were involved.
Confirmation of the incident, which occurred in August of that year, came in response to a question asked by Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister, in the form of a letter to the Chief Constable, following a number of reports in the Sentinel.
The Sentinel had made a Freedom of Information request to the PSNI, because of a number of incidents, starting with the date of the bonfire incident, after which local people and dissident republicans claimed that mainstream republicans were responsible.
But police refused to confirm or deny whether they hold information that might link “the Provisional IRA, in any guise, as possibly being involved in criminal activities of any sort in G District” for the period July 1, 2010 to July 28, 2011.”
Initially the PSNI used exemptions that allowed it to neither confirm nor deny it held information about suspected Provo activity.
An appeal resulted in a similar stance, though different exemptions were applied.
Following the Sentinel’s reports, Mr Allister said he was sufficiently concerned as to contact the Chief Constable, asking for a response to our claims.
In a response, Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin, who heads up G District, said he believed the incident the Sentinel referred to, was a report of up to 20 masked men close to the community centre in the Gobnascale area.
He confirmed: “On the 7th August 2010, PSNI received similar reports from members of the public.”
He said the police probe focussed on reports of the masked men “allegedly appearing in Campion Court and challenging local youths around the building of a bonfire”.
“Police spoke to a number of people stating they were in the vicinity at the time. However none of these witness were prepared to make any written statements to police and some were completely uncooperative. A white van, purportedly used by these men was also recovered and seized by police.
“However forensic examination proved negative.”
He added: “It was reported in the Londonderry Sentinel - ‘It was then claimed that as police arrived into the area the men removed their masks to blend in with local people, causing them to be identified as members of the mainstream republican movement.
“This view was backed by dissident republican groupings’.”
The Chief Superintendent continued: “In the course of their investigations, police were unable to positively or negatively confirm these claims.
“No paramilitary organisations were named, and no claims of responsibility were ever made. The police investigation into the incident to date has not resulted in any person being made amenable.
“It is disappointing that, to date, no one has been reported for any of the alleged reported offences.
“However, without the full cooperation of the public, it is always more difficult in cases such as this, to bring about successful prosecutions.”
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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