Jim Donegan shot eight times as he sat in his flame red £60,000 Porsche Panamera car in December 2018 in west Belfast

PSNI intelligence officers missed chances to identify drug baron Jim Donegan as a man under dissident republican threat six months before he was blasted to death, a watchdog has concluded.

Police Ombudsman criticised a failure by the PSNI to link Jim Donegan to the threat and warn him about it.

Donegan was shot dead by a lone gunman while waiting to collect his son outside a school on the Glen Road in west Belfast on December 4 2018.

A lone gunman dressed in a hi-vis shot Donegan eight times to the head and upper body.

On June 7 that year police received intelligence that dissident republicans were planning to shoot an unnamed man “they believed to be involved in the sale of illegal drugs.”

The intelligence identified the type of car driven by the man and stated that he regularly picked up his son from a school on the Glen Road, but provided no date for the anticipated attack.

Drug baron Jim Donegan shot dead by dissident republicans

Members of Donegan’s family told Police Ombudsman investigators that if he had been made aware of the threat he would have changed his routine so as not to put his son at risk.

Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson said the PSNI’s failings deprived Donegan of the opportunity of taking preventative measures.

The PSNI said it would “meticulously review” the findings.

Although she said police had faced challenges in identifying Donegan as the subject of the threat, Mrs Anderson found that additional research of the police computer system at an early stage would have been likely to have made such a link.

“As that did not happen, no threat management process was put in place,” said Mrs Anderson.

“This meant that police failed to effectively fulfil their obligation to take preventative measures to protect someone whose life was at risk.”

However, Mrs Anderson welcomed the PSNI’s acceptance and implementation of her recommendation for additional training for intelligence officers to help prevent a recurrence.

Police Ombudsman investigators established that after receiving intelligence about the threat on June 7 2018, police made a series of enquiries in a bid to identify the car and the unnamed person referred to in the threat report.

Although a number of people were identified as potential targets, none were Donegan. Within just over a month of the threat having been received, further enquiries had ruled out each of these individuals, and the police investigation of the threat had drawn largely to a halt.

Police Ombudsman investigators identified several reasons why police had failed to identify Donegan as its subject, including the inability of police to link him to a car of the same make mentioned in the threat message.

Although Donegan did own and drive a car of that make, at the time of the threat it was registered to his wife.

It was among a number of vehicles identified through police enquiries as potentially matching the details of the threat message.

A police intelligence officer accessed details of all these vehicles and their registered owners, including Donegan’s wife.

However, although her relationship with Mr Donegan was referenced, the officer made no checks in relation to him.

“Some additional enquiries at that early stage, in particular checking Mr Donegan’s profile, would have revealed that he had previously been the subject of a number of threats from dissident republicans and was likely to be the unnamed person referred to in the threat message,” said Mrs Anderson.

When interviewed, the officer who made those enquiries said he had not been aware of Donegan or the previous threats against him.

Mrs Anderson said that if the officer had not retired before the conclusion of her enquiries she would have made performance and disciplinary recommendations respectively in relation to the failure to make all reasonable enquiries and for omitting to make appropriate records of the enquiries he had undertaken.

Five weeks after police became aware of the threat, Donegan bought a Porsche and his personalised registration plate was then fitted to that vehicle. He was in the Porsche at the time of his murder.

Jim Donegan and close associate Sean Fox both murdered by dissident republicans

Mrs Anderson also noted that police records included previous entries linking Mr Donegan to the personalised registration plate. This information had not been entered into the vehicles section of his police profile.

Donegan was the subject of intelligence about two other dissident republican threats in June 2018.

“Police dealt appropriately with both these threats, meeting Mr Donegan and providing him with security advice,” said Mrs Anderson.

“Regretfully, the threat which family members have stated would have been most likely to have resulted in him changing his routine – given that it mentioned his son and a school – was the one which police were unable to associate with him and therefore did not warn him about.”

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