O'Hagan killers 'were informers'

Murdered: Martin O’Hagan

Close colleagues of murdered Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan believe police still haven’t charged his killers three years on because at least some of them were informants for the security forces.

The allegations come in a week that marks the third anniversary of the death of O’Hagan – who was the first journalist murdered in Northern Ireland since the Troubles erupted in 1969.

Last week police informant Kenneth Barrett, 41, pleaded guilty to the 1989 murder of lawyer Pat Finucane. Although jailed for life, he is likely to be freed early under the terms of the Good Friday agreement.

A former colleague of O’Hagan said: “Everybody knows these boys are still around – the general consensus is they don’t get apprehended because they are police informants.

“More and more people are coming to the conclusion that no-one has been arrested for the murder of Martin O’Hagan for the same reason that noone was charged with the murder of Pat Finucane for so long.

“The only way the killers of Martin O’Hagan will ever be brought to justice is if there is an independent inquiry. I have no faith in the police being able to prosecute his killers because the same Special Branch officers involved in running them haven’t left the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).”

O’Hagan, 51, was gunned down as he walked home from a pub in Lurgan with his wife. His killers are believed to be Loyalist paramilitaries seeking revenge after O’Hagan had exposed their involvement in organised crime.

O’Hagan is thought to have recognised his killers and was heard to have said: “It’s Mackers”, as a man leaned out of a car to shoot him.

The NUJ has expressed “grave concern” at the PSNI’s lack of progress in the O’Hagan investigation.

NUJ president Jim Corrigall said: “Martin O’Hagan’s murder represented an attack on journalism and democracy. For that reason the NUJ remains gravely concerned at the failure of the authorities to apprehend those responsible.

“We believe that more needs to be done to ensure that those who murdered Martin are brought to justice. If greater resources are needed then they should, as a priority, be provided.”

A PSNI spokesman said: “The investigation into the murder of Martin O’Hagan remains open and a number of people have been arrested in the course of inquiries.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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