POLICE Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire says he has found no evidence of police involvement in the UFF gun attack on Gerry Adams and four other men in Belfast city centre 30 years ago.
Loyalist gunmen opened fire on the car containing Mr Adams and the four men as they made their way from Belfast Magistrates’ Court on 14 March 1984.
The driver, despite being hit twice by the gunfire, managed to get the vehicle to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where they all received medical attention.
An off-duty UDR soldier who was driving in the city centre at the time, gave chase to the gunmen’s car.
As it stopped in traffic, he got out of his vehicle and drew his firearm. A policeman, who had also been off-duty, then arrived on the scene, as did two soldiers who were in plain clothes.
The three gunmen in the car were then detained.
They were ultimately convicted of the attack and were given significant jail sentences.
Mr Adams made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman’s Office following articles in two newspapers which reported that members of the RUC knew of the attack beforehand.
He alleged that the police or the security forces either had prior knowledge of, or had been involved, in what happened. Mr Adams said he felt ‘something was not quite right’ about the entire incident and wondered how security force personnel ‘coincidentally’ appeared at the scene that day.
The Police Ombudsman extended his investigation to include claims reported in the media that:
* a police informant, who was a highly placed member of the UFF, was involved in planning the attack;
* a retired RUC detective said police knew of the plan a week before it happened, and that the bullets used had been ‘doctored.’
A Police Ombudsman team spoke with Mr Adams, to the soldiers who arrived on the scene, to members of the public who saw what happened, to the gunmen who carried out the attack and to a number of retired police officers.
They examined a variety of police documentation, including papers contained in the ‘crime file’ compiled during the RUC investigation of the attack, and a range of sensitive ‘intelligence’ material held by police.
The Detective Inspector in charge of investigating the attack said he was not aware of the police or the security forces having any information prior to the shooting, but acknowledged he may not have been aware of all the intelligence.
The Detective Sergeant who worked on the investigation also said he was not aware, nor did he ever become aware, that police had prior warning of the attack.
One of the men convicted of the attack said he had no part in planning the operation. The ‘getaway’ driver said he suspected it was planned close to, if not on the day itself. The third man was murdered in 2003.
The off duty UDR soldier and the two other soldiers have provided accounts as to how they came to be present at the scene. These accounts have been supported by independent witnesses.
The off-duty police officer who also arrived on the scene has since died.
Police Ombudsman investigators also spoke to journalists involved in the media reporting which prompted Mr Adams’ complaint. They were unwilling to reveal where or from whom they had received information that the police or the security forces had been involved in the attack.
Investigators examined the relevant ‘intelligence’ material held by police. They found nothing to indicate that police had any information warning them of the attack or that any of their informants were involved in what happened.
Investigations established that none of the three guns recovered from the scene had ever been used in previous shootings.
The Police Ombudsman had the ammunition used in the attack examined independently by a leading firearms expert. He found no evidence that the items had been tampered with and said they had ‘lethal potential.’
Dr Maguire has said he has found no evidence that police knew of, or were involved in away way, in the attack on Mr Adams:
“We have talked to all the people involved in the events that day, including the perpetrators, the victims and the police. We have examined all the available evidence, including forensic and sensitive intelligence material and found no evidence that police knew of the attack beforehand,” he said.