THE Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland is to revisit the murder of MI5 Denis Donaldson over claims police officers may be linked to his death.
On Wednesday, Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire overturned a previous decision by his predecessor Al Hutchinson to shut down the investigation and rule there was no misconduct by officers.
Donaldson, who was one of the most highly prized informants working for Special Branch and MI5, was shot dead in Donegal in April 2006.
Belfast Daily revealed in November that Gardai investigating his murder still had not interviewed a vital witness to the shotgun murder.
He had gone into hiding after police told him the media were preparing to expose his secret life as an informer.
The Real IRA said it was responsible but his family alleged that police officers may have exposed him as an agent and contributed to his death.
Three years ago the then Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson said there had been no police misconduct and declared the case closed.
But a BBC Spotlight investigation in October 2011 revealed investigators had not interviewed a special branch officer who Mr Donaldson’s family believe may hold vital information about what happened.
After his murder, Denis Donaldson’s family alleged that police officers who knew about his secret role may have exposed him as an agent and contributed to his de
They were also unaware he had been writing a journal which his family believe could contain clues about who killed him and why.
The current ombudsman, Michael Maguire, confirmed on Wednesday that he has launched a new investigation.
It is understood investigators will seek access to the journal, which was removed by Garda officers investigating the killing, and to interview the special branch officer.
Mr Donaldson was shot at a remote cottage in Glenties in 2006.
He moved out of his Belfast home a few months before his death, and had been living in the run-down cottage which had neither electricity nor running water.
Four months earlier, he had been expelled from Sinn Fein after admitting being a paid British spy for 20 years.
Gardia in Donegal are still investigating his murder and hunting those behind his shotgun killing.
Belfast Daily revealed two months ago that an important witness has not been interviewed by gardaí investigating the murder of Sinn Féin spy Denis Donaldson in Donegal, an inquest heard yesterday.
Senior gardaí told an inquest in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, in November that a file had been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and they anticipated a decision on whether to pursue the criminal case within four months.
Fiona Doherty, a barrister for the family, told the inquest: “The family does welcome the fact that a file has been submitted, if only because it means there has been some progress in the case.
“However, the family have had ongoing contact with the gardaí about the progress of the investigation and they are concerned about the manner in which the investigation has been carried out.
“There has been one witness in particular that they know has not been spoken to by the Garda, a witness they regard as very, very important.”
Lawyer for the police, Stephen Byrne, said it had been a good investigation.
“There is nothing to suggest, any evidence to suggest, that there has been anything other than a proper and bona fide criminal investigation carried out and that is a matter of record and it has resulted in a file being submitted to the DPP, which is a step I would have thought the family would seek to encourage in the hope that whoever is responsible is brought to account in the proper forum, in a criminal court,” he said.
Donegal coroner Denis McCauley has opened the inquest into Mr Donaldson’s death 10 times and each time it has been adjourned.
The sequence of events surrounding his death dated back to 2002 after three men, including Mr Donaldson, were arrested following a raid on Sinn Féin’s Stormont office.
The power-sharing executive between unionists and nationalists collapsed and Government restored direct rule to the North a week later.
In 2005 charges against three men were dropped and within days Sinn Féin said Mr Donaldson was a British agent and expelled him from the party.
He later said he had worked as a spy since the 1980s.
The coroner said his investigation would focus on five areas:
:: Mr Donaldson’s life and experiences in the UK, including his work and his supposed exposure and the fact he was recognised to be an informer;
:: What happened in the time leading up to his flight to Donegal and his death;
:: His interaction with gardaí, given that he was a vulnerable person at risk;
:: How he died;
:: The investigation into his death.
He welcomed the fact that gardaí had submitted a file to the DPP and said if a decision was not made to hold a criminal trial, he hoped to have the inquest under way next year.
The family’s legal team has urged that the inquest take into account European Article 2 law surrounding the right to life and submitted case law from Ireland and the UK. The coroner urged them to revise their submissions before he makes a decision.
Garda superintendent Michael Finan told the inquest he would expect a decision from the DPP within four months.
Mr Byrne urged the coroner not to write to try to speed up the DPP’s deliberations to avoid any taint on her independence.
The case was adjourned to March 21 this year.