O'Hagan murder 5 years on: NUJ urge govt to use outside police force

On the fifth anniversary of the murder of Sunday World reporter Martin O'Hagan, the UK Government has been urged by the NUJ to bring in an outside police force to investigate his murder.

Press Gazette has been told the names of six men strongly suspected to have been involved in the killing of O'Hagan — the only journalist murdered by paramilitaries in 30 years of the Troubles. All of these names have also been given to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), yet none have been charged.

O'Hagan was murdered apparently in revenge for writing a series of stories exposing the gangster activities of paramilitaries and drug gangs. He was walking home with his wife when he was shot in the back on 28 September 2001.

A former colleague of O'Hagan told Press Gazette that a known member of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) was in the bar where O'Hagan was drinking on the night he died and was spotted by a witness making a phone call shortly after he left.

Another known LVF man was spotted running from near the scene where O'Hagan was murdered, and another man was later heard by witnesses boasting "we killed Martin O'Hagan".

One of the alleged attackers was also named by O'Hagan as he lay dying in his wife's arms.

Senior Sunday World reporter John Keane said: "I'm convinced that some of the people involved in this murder are present or former special branch agents, and the reason they have not been charged is because if they were in the witness box they would spill the beans on crimes they were involved in that were instigated by the Special Branch."

NUJ Irish secretary Seamus Dooley said in a letter to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain this week: "On the fifth anniversary of the murder of Martin O'Hagan, the NUJ again wishes to record our grave concern at the lack of progress in the PSNI investigation into his death.

"Martin O'Hagan was a brave journalist, a committed trade unionist and a strong defender of human rights. His murder, the first of a working journalist during the Troubles, was a direct attack on democracy and on the right to freedom of expression.

"It is obvious that the PSNI is not in a position to fully investigate this murder. The failure to apprehend those responsible and to secure convictions through the courts is deeply worrying, and our members have lost confidence in the current investigation.

"In the circumstances, I am renewing our request that a police force from outside Northern Ireland be assigned to this investigation, which should be treated as a priority."

On Thursday this week, the Belfast branch of the NUJ (of which O'Hagan was secretary) was due to present a letter of concern to the Police Ombudsman's office in Belfast.

In a statement, the PSNI said: "An extensive investigation into the murder of Mr O'Hagan has been conducted. Detectives have pursued more than 2,000 lines of enquiry, taken more than 400 statements and made eight arrests.

"The police service shares the frustration of Mr O'Hagan's family, friends and colleagues that no one has been made amenable for this crime. In due course and in line with policy, the investigation will be reviewed and the outcome of that review will be discussed with the O'Hagan family.

"Detectives stand ready to follow up any new information."

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