Published Date: 18.10.2018
A Police Ombudsman investigation has found no evidence to indicate that RUC officers were complicit in the murder of a colleague nor protected those responsible from investigation.
Constable John Larmour was shot dead by the IRA on the evening of Tuesday 11 October 1988 in an ice cream parlour on the Lisburn Road in Belfast. No one has ever been prosecuted for the murder.
A previous Police Ombudsman report published in 2008 found the police investigation of the attack was not thorough and not all information had been passed to detectives.
Members of the officer’s family subsequently brought new information to the Police Ombudsman’s Office and separately made a range of allegations which implicated RUC Special Branch officers and police informants in the killing.
The allegations drew links with a series of other murders and terrorist incidents over a 17 year period.
The Police Ombudsman investigation looked at each of these issues in so far as they could provide information to support or discount the allegations about Constable Larmour’s murder.
Investigators interviewed more than 40 witnesses, many of whom were retired police officers, looked at case papers and forensic files and examined intelligence held by police.
More than 40 witnesses interviewed, including many retired police officers.
“We found no evidence to suggest that Special Branch, or any other element within the RUC aided, abetted, counselled or procured John Larmour’s murder, nor that they could they have prevented it.
“Similarly, we found no evidence to support allegations that police failed to charge suspects in the murder or that they protected IRA members from being brought to justice,” said Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire.
The Police Ombudsman’s Office established that one of the weapons used to kill Constable Larmour was likely to have been originally owned by the RUC.
“PSNI records do not show to whom it was issued nor are they able to establish if it was ever lost or stolen,” said Dr Maguire.
Many of the allegations were underpinned by a belief that there was a fraught relationship between Special Branch and Constable Larmour and as a consequence some of its officers became complicit in his murder.
The Police Ombudsman investigation found that ‘something of a fractious relationship almost certainly developed’ between the two.
However, it found that the weight of evidence did not support an allegation that a charge of perverting the course of justice made against Constable Larmour was initiated by police in order to get rid of him from the police force.
Nor did it substantiate an allegation that Constable Larmour intervened to stop a robbery being carried out by police informants, whom the police then sought to protect from justice.
Police Ombudsman investigators also considered a complaint that Constable Larmour and colleagues were prevented from intervening in a terrorist attack in which an off-duty UDR soldier was killed.
They spoke to a number of the officer’s colleagues. The officers had little or no recollection of the incident and there was a general view that their unit would not have been tasked to such an incident.
A family member also alleged that Special Branch officers who had been secretly recording meetings in an IRA ‘safe house’ during a period between 1988 and 1989, had heard Constable Larmour’s murder being planned but allowed it to go ahead.
They also alleged that officers listened afterwards, heard a number of men discuss what happened, but rather than passing this information to detectives investigating the killing, used it to recruit one of these men as a police informant.
“This allegation was based on the existence of secret recordings in IRA ‘safe houses.’ Police have told us they have insufficient records to establish if the covert listening and recording referred to took place,” said Dr Maguire.
It was also alleged that a member of the public made admissions to police of his involvement in events leading up to the murder, but that the RUC ensured this was not investigated properly.
Police Ombudsman investigators uncovered evidence that this person had been receiving psychiatric treatment at the time he spoke to police, and that it was the DPP which decided it could not rely on the admissions he made.
The Police Ombudsman investigation found no evidence to support an allegation that the IRA murder of a retired police officer, whom it was alleged was going to provide a member of the Larmour family with sensitive information, was linked to the Constable’s murder.