Historical Enquiries Team

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Graffiti against the work of the Historical Enquiries Team, Mount Vernon estate, Belfast

The Historical Enquiries Team is a unit of the Police Service of Northern Ireland set up in September 2005 to investigate the 3,269 unsolved murders committed during the Troubles (specifically between 1968 and 1998).

The team aims to bring closure to many bereaved families who still have unanswered questions about the death or disappearance of their loved ones. Working with families is at the heart of the HET objectives, and a family liaison process is in place.[1]

Headed by Commander David Cox, formerly of the London Metropolitan Police, it consists of a team of 100 investigators and supporting staff, and a budget of £30 million.

HET is split into two distinct teams: Review and Investigation. The Review team is staffed by police officers employed and seconded from outside the Northern Ireland (to assure complete independence), while the Investigation team has been recruited locally.

Working at a closure rate of 40 cases per month, the team will fulfil its mandate by 2011. However, the investigators - along with the Police Ombudsman - agree that they will require further time to work through the outstanding cases.[2]

On 29 January 2008 it was announced that the Team would reopen files on 124 deaths resulting from fatal shootings by British Army soldiers between 1970 and 1973. At that time community representatives with no training were used to take official witness statements and soldiers involved were also interviewed by the Royal Military Police instead of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Doubts had since been raised about the independence and effectiveness of these investigations.[3]

In a February 2008 it was confirmed in the House of Commons that the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) was to examine all deaths attributed to The Troubles from January 1969 to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, equating to 3,268 deaths which occurred in 2,516 incidents (an incident is described as a case). At that time 1,039 cases had been allocated to the HET business process. The team currently has a total of 175 staff.[4]

Findings[edit]

The HET has investigated several of the most controversial killings during the Troubles, including the execution of Terry Herdman (17), in 1973, who had friends in the IRA and was accused of being an informer and thus was executed by the IRA as they regarded him as a "liability", the HET reported that Herdman did not knowingly betray IRA secrets to the Army or the police.[5]

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report on the 1975 Miami Showband killings, an ambush on civilians traveling in a minibus, confirmed Mid-Ulster UVF leader Robin "jackal" Jackson's involvement and identified him as an RUC Special Branch agent.[6] The HET said the killings raised "disturbing questions about collusive and corrupt behaviour" between loyalist paramilitaries and British state forces.[7]

The HET report on the 1976 Kingsmill massacre, an ambush on civilians traveling in a minibus, stated that the organization that carried out the act, the South Armagh Republican Action Force(SARAF), included members of the Provisional IRA despite that organization being on a ceasefire. The HET report said that the 10 all male victims of the massacre, 4 of which belonged to the Orange Order,[8] were targeted because they were from the Protestant community, and that their murder was a sectarian response to the shooting of 7 Catholics in the Reavey and O'Dowd killings that occurred the night before but that it was planned before that event.[9][10][11] This is in line with the contemporary statement issued by the spokesman for SARAF.[12]

In the fatal shooting of Aidan McAnespie on 21 February 1988, the British Army soldier claimed that his hands were wet, causing him to inadvertently fire his machine gun when he was moving inside a sanger. The report called this the "least likely version" of what happened.[13]

Damien Walsh (17) was murdered while working at a coal supply business in Twinbrook in 1993. The HET reported that undercover British soldiers were watching as UFF loyalists murdered the Catholic teenager but were too far away to intervene.[14]

William McGreanery (41) was shot by a British soldier in Derry in 1971 when he was walking past an observation point. An investigation by the HET into Mr MrGreanery's death found that he was not carrying a firearm and he posed no threat to the soldiers, despite earlier claims that he was.[15][16]

Majella O'Hare (12) from Whitecross was on her way to confession on August 14, 1976, when she was hit in the back by a bullet. A HET report backed an earlier RUC investigation which found that the British soldier who shot her was not returning fire, as he had claimed.[17]

A HET report into the loyalist murders of three brothers from south Armagh in 1976 exonerated them and their family of any links to paramilitarism. The brothers - John Martin, Brian and Anthony Reavey who were all Catholic were shot dead by six masked men who burst into their home in Whitecross in January 1976.[18]

In the Sean Graham bookmakers' shooting Five Civilians(Catholics) were killed in a mass shooting perpetrated by the UDA, who opened fire on the bookmakers' shop on the Ormeau Road in 1992. The HET report confirmed one of the guns used by the UDA gang had previously been returned to them by RUC officers.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BBC News Northern Ireland - Murder review team to begin work
  2. ^ BBC News Northern Ireland - Deaths probe timescale 'unlikely'
  3. ^ McDaid, Brendan (2008-01-29). "PSNI team to probe shootings by soldiers". The Belfast Telegraph. p. 3. 
  4. ^ "Historical Enquiries Team". House of Commons Hansard. Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  5. ^ "belfasttelegraph.co.uk".  Woman who fought for 37 years to get to truth of an IRA murder
  6. ^ "Miami Showband massacre: HET raises collusion concerns". BBC News website (BBC). 14 December 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011. 
  7. ^ McDonald, Henry (14 December 2011). "Miami Showband killings: police tipoff helped suspect elude justice, says report". guardian.co.uk (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 14 December 2011. 
  8. ^ "In Memory", Armagh County Grand Orange Lodge website.
  9. ^ "IRA blamed for 'sectarian slaughter' of 10 at Kingsmill". The Irish Times. 22 June 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011. 
  10. ^ "BBC – 'Kingsmills families demand full inquiry into massacre'". BBC. 22 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011. 
  11. ^ "UTV News – Paisley under pressure over Reavey apology". U.tv. 30 June 2010. Retrieved 21 July 2010. 
  12. ^ "Blood in the Rain". The Belfast Telegraph. 5 January 2006. Retrieved 19 August 2010. 
  13. ^ "Checkpoint death report welcomed". BBC News NI (24 June 2008. 24 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  14. ^ "HET report says 'soldiers watched as teen was killed'. Undercover soldiers were watching as loyalists murdered a Catholic teenager in west Belfast, a report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has found.2010". 
  15. ^ "How the killing of an innocent man William McGreanery may have paved the way for Bloody Sunday". 
  16. ^ "MoD apology to Derry family". 
  17. ^ "Ministry of Defence says sorry for killing of Majella O'Hare • Schoolgirl shot dead by paratrooper in 1976 • Letter to mother formally apologises for killing". 
  18. ^ "belfasttelegraph.co.uk".  Woman who fought for 37 years to get to truth of an IRA murder
  19. ^ Bookies' massacre gun 'given by RUC'

External links[edit]