Sister of Rosaleen O Kane lodges Judicial Review Challenge to Belfast High Court for failure of state agencies to investigate murder
Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors & Advocates
4th March 2022
Lawyers for Kathleen Graham, sister of Rosaleen O Kane, who was murdered in her flat in North Belfast on the 17th of September 1976, have lodged judicial review proceedings against the Chief Constable of the PSNI, the Attorney General for Northern Ireland and the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland for the failure to investigate her murder.
Rosaleen O Kane, a 33-year-old single woman, was found murdered in her flat at Cliftonpark Avenue, Belfast on the 17th of September 1976. Ms O Kane’s body had been stripped naked, set alight and she had also sustained a fracture to her skull. A second fire had been set in another area of the flat.
The original post-mortem examination in 1976 was unable to determine the exact cause of death because the pathologist could not conclude whether the fracture to her skull had been inflicted before she died or was a consequence of the fire. The same report confirmed that there was no smoke inhalation in Ms O Kane’s lungs. Blood and other forensic samples taken during the post-mortem which might have assisted in determining the cause of death, and assisted police in their investigation were destroyed the next day in a fire in the Northern Ireland Forensic Laboratory on 18th September 1976.
In 2002 relatives of Miss O Kane met with senior PSNI officers with a request that the murder investigation into their sister’s death be re-opened. The family has always believed that her murder was sectarian. At that meeting in 2002 police confirmed that they could not rule out a sectarian motive for the murder of Rosaleen O Kane.
Since the 2002 meeting with police the family of Rosaleen O Kane have repeatedly requested that the murder investigation be re-opened. In October 2004 senior police in the PSNI referred the case to the Serious Crime Review Team (SCRT). From 2002 to 2018 the family pursued requests for a full and proper police investigation. The SCRT made recommendations of further lines of enquiry in 2011 but some 10 years on the family understand that those recommendations have still not been carried out. During those 10 years the investigation was transferred to the Retrospective Murder Investigation Team (REMIT) and then to the Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB).
Lawyers for the family, Harte Coyle Collins, also lodged 2 requests for a fresh inquest with the Attorney General for NI. The original inquest on the 19th of October 1977 returned an open verdict. That inquest had not been provided with any proper information about the 1976 police investigation and was deprived of any proper effectiveness. In the absence of a full police investigation a request for a fresh inquest was lodged in May 2016 but was refused in August 2017. A second application for a fresh inquest was made in January 2018 but was refused in May 2018.
The family have now this week lodged a judicial review application to the High Court in Belfast challenging the failure of all 3 state agencies to investigate the murder of their sister Rosaleen.
Kathleen Graham, sister of Rosaleen O Kane, said today.
“We would like the truth. Even one bit of truth. Rosaleen was our sister, but she was like our mother. I still miss her every day.”
Nichola Harte of Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors & Advocates said today:
“As we have stated before on behalf of our clients there has never been an effective investigation into the death of Rosaleen O Kane despite the existence of clear lines of enquiry. This is completely inexplicable and gives rise to serious concern. It is extremely distressing for the family. Each of the relevant public authorities has the power to secure an effective investigation. Mechanisms for investigation remain available in Northern Ireland and the state needs to use them as part of due process for our clients and others who seek the truth. “
The family await a court date for the hearing of the judicial review challenge.
Harte Coyle Collins
Solicitors & Advocates