The Murder of Seamus Ludlow in County Louth, May 1976. Towards a public inquiry?

 

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The Irish Times, 4 November 2005:

Garda stopped from quizzing suspects

Mark Hennessey
Political Correspondent
 

Garda detectives were stopped from interrogating suspected loyalist killers of a Co Louth man murdered on the Border in 1976, according to a report by a former High Court judge published last night.

Seamus Ludlow, a 47-year-old forestry worker from Thistle Cross, Dundalk, was found shot dead in a lane three miles outside Dundalk on May 2nd.

It is believed his body was dumped there by four members of the Red Hand Commando organisation, who had picked him up the night before and killed him as he returned home after a night out in Dundalk.

In his report, Mr Justice Henry Barron said he believed the officer investigating Mr Ludlow's murder, Det Supt Dan Murphy was ordered to "abandon" plans to interview four suspects held by the RUC three years after the killing. The only "credible explanation2 for the order was that it was issued to avoid having to grant reciprocal rights to the RUC, where officers would interview suspects in the Republic, said Mr Justice Barron.

The Barron report, which was submitted to the Government 14 months ago, was released to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights yesterday. The report said that the British government at the time was pressing for "hot pursuit" rights across the Border, British military overflights and the right to interview suspects in the Republic.

"These three issues evoked strong reactions amongst ordinary people in the State, and such popular opposition was uinevitably reflected in the policies and attitudes of the gardai and successive governments," Mr Justice Barron said.

Thirty years on it could not be proven that Garda would have had to grant reciprocal interview rights, he said. "It is sufficient that senior gardai and/or officials from the Department of Justice held a perception that this was so."

The report outlined how in January 1979 the RUC identified four men to the head of  Garda security and inteligence, Chief Supt Michael Fitzgerald, whom they believed were involved in Mr Ludlow's killing.

The four men are identified in the Barron  report as Paul Hosking, William Rchard Long, Comber, Co Down; Samuel Carroll, Bangor, Co Down; and a then UDR corporal, James Reid Fitzsimmons. Two of the men were in jail in Northern Ireland at the time - Mr Long for the murder of  David Spratt a month after the Ludlow killing, and Mr Carroll for firearms offences.

However, the Barron report said that Garda Security and Intelligence had not opened files into three of the suspected killers, while a file held on the fourth had nothing to do with the Ludlow killing and could not now, in any event, be found.

The report detailed how in 1995 journalist Joe Tiernan contacted Mr Ludlow's family and said he had been told that the Garda had been aware all along of the identity of the killers. Later Mr Tiernan told the family that the source of his information was Det Supt Owen Corrigan and that Mr Ludlow had been but one of the victims of a loyalist gang led by Robin "The Jackal" Jackson.

The information spurred the Ludlow family into launching a public campaign to discover the truth about Seamus Ludlow's killers.

An internal investigation ordered by the then deputy commissioner for operations Pat Byrne, who subsequently became Garda Commissioner, revealed the existence of a 1979 report from Det Supt Courtney, which mentioned the RUC's information about the four suspects and sought permission to interview them.

Mr Byrne ordered a further investigation under the command of Det Supt Ted Murphy, who in January 1997 asked the RUC for co-operation.

The four suspects were arrested in February 1998 and interrogated by the RUC. Garda detectives did not attend the interrogations.

Two of the men, Mr Hosking and Mr Fitzsimmons admitted being present when Mr Ludlow was killed, but denied any involvemen in it, while the other two, Mr Carroll and Mr Long denied knowing anything abut it.

In a eport to the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions, the RUC said it doubted if Mr Hosking and Mr Fitzsimmons could be prosecuted. However, it was possible that the two could serve as witnesses if the DPP decided to prosecute Mr Carroll and Mr Long. In October 1999 the DPP decided not to prosecute.

In a leter to the inquiry in January 204 the North's DP said a prosecution of Mr Long and Mr Carroll would be "entirely dependent" on the evidence of mr Hosking and Mr Fitzsimmons. Questions  could be raised about the credibility  either would have as witnesses, while no forensic evidence could be produced 30 years on.

In his report Mr Justice Barron accepted that the statements given by Mr Hosking and Mr Fitzsimmons differed substantially in places. "It is the view of the inquiry, concurred in by the DPP, that this could only have compounded the difficulties faced by a prosecutor in this case," said the judge.

Download the Barron Report from the Oireachtas website (pdf file)

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Copyright 2005 the Ludlow family. All rights reserved.
Revised: December 16, 2005