THE Police Ombudsman has been called in to investigate the murder of a journalist over a decade ago.
The move comes after the Public Prosecution Service said it was no longer in a position to review the reduced jail term handed down to loyalist Neil Hyde.
The former Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) member had agreed to name those behind the 2001 shooting of Martin O’Hagan who worked as an investigative reporter with the Sunday World in Belfast.
In a statement, the PPS said its director Barra McGrory QC intended to exercise his powers to refer the murder case to the Ombudsman.
Mr O’Hagan, 51, was shot dead as he walked home from a night out with his wife Marie in Lurgan in September 2001.
The killing of the reporter was claimed by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by both the LVF and Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
Last year Hyde had his sentence for 48 LVF-linked offences reduced from 18 years to three after he agreed to become an “assisting offender” and help police.
But, in January the PPS announced its decision not to prosecute.
Several months later it announced that it was passing the case back to the court amid allegations that Hyde did not tell the full truth in his dealings with the authorities.
The PPS statement said on Wednesdsay said: “Based on the initial evidence the specified prosecutor in this case had concluded that the assisting offender had knowingly breached his agreement under section 73 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 and that it was in the interest of justice that the case be referred back to the original sentencing court.
“However, following further examination of the evidence previously made available by police, extensive police enquiries and PPS consultation with the relevant witness, it is considered that the evidence which is now available is not sufficient to establish a breach of the agreement by Neil Hyde to the requisite standard.
“Accordingly there is no longer a basis to refer the matter to the court.
“The court has therefore been informed that the PPS no longer seeks the review of the sentence.
“The director of the PPS now intends to exercise his power under section 55 (4A) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 to refer the matter to the Police Ombudsman for investigation.”
Hyde was prosecuted for a range of offences including conspiring to carry a firearm with intent to wound in connection with the murder of Mr O’Hagan.
He was the first journalist killed in the line of work in the history of the Troubles.