The family of
Seamus Ludlow, the Co Louth man shot dead in controversial and possibly
sinister circumstances by Loyalists twenty-five years ago, have asked the
North's Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan to investigate the RUC's handling of
the investigation into his death.
Ludlow, a 47 year
old forestry worker who lived on the Northern outskirts of Dundalk, was found
shot and dumped in a laneway near his home in May 1976 in circumstances that
remained unclear for 23 years. At the time the Garda blamed the IRA but it is
now known that members of the Loyalist Red Hand Commando, two of them UDR
soldiers, picked him up in a car and then shot him.
The case has
aroused controversy for a number of reasons. The Gardai were told by the RUC
who had killed Ludlow in 1979 yet for many years afterwards the Special Branch
continued to insist that the IRA had killed him and that a member of his
family had betrayed him. The Ludlow's were divided for over twenty years with
each part of the family believing that a member of the other part had been
responsible for the killing.
It also emerged
that the RUC Special Branch knew all about the killing and at one stage told
one of the four men who was in the car on the night of the killing to forget
about the case as it was "political". Until recently there was never
any serious attempt to question or pursue the Red Hand Commando members
involved in the killing despite apparent evidence that the authorities on both
sides of the Border knew who the culprits were.
Doubt has centred
on the role of the man, known as 'Mambo' who actually shot Seamus Ludlow that
night. The circumstances of the killing and its aftermath have fuelled
suspicion that 'Mambo' may have been a British agent and that the behaviour of
the authorities, including dividing and weakening the Ludlow family, is
consistent with an attempt to cover up his activities. If this is true then it
raises serious questions about the role of the Garda Special Branch in Dundalk
and the Garda leadership in Dublin in the mid-1970's.
In an attempt to
meet growing protests from the Ludlow family the government appointed a former
Supreme Court judge to head a private inquiry into the killing, along with the
Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974. Initially Mr Justice Hamilton was given
the task but when he retired on health grounds Mr Justice Barron took over.
The Ludlow family
have withheld their approval for the private inquiry arguing instead that
their case is similar to that of Pat Finucane, the Belfast solicitor killed by
Loyalists amid allegations of security force collusion and should be treated similarly.
Since the government supports the campaign for a public judicial inquiry into
Finucane, the Ludlow's say they are also entitled to one.
The approach to
the North's Police Ombudsman comes in the wake of remarks by the RUC Chief
Constable's office that could mean that an agent was involved in the affair.
In a July 2000 letter to an American supporter of the family the Chief
Constable's office wrote: "I can inform you it is not force policy to
comment on matters pertaining to "Agents". Police reports to the DPP
are confidential documents as are forensic/ballistic reports."
The letter to
Nuala O'Loan from the Ludlow family solicitor states: "Our clients are
anxious that you would use your powers to investigate the role of the RUC in
relation to the investigation of this murder. Our client's primary concern is
that the guilty parties were identified at an early date but that no effective
steps were taken to secure a prosecution.
concern therefore to our clients is to establish what was known to the police
authorities and when it was known. On a second level they would be anxious to
know what information was communicated by the RUC to their colleagues in An
Garda Siochana and when that was communicated."