Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors, acting on behalf of Stephen Crumlish, Michael Toner, Gerry McGowan and Gerry Kelly (known as the Derry 4), confirmed today that documents were submitted to the High Court in Belfast by representatives for the Chief Constable of the PSNI on Friday 16th September 2016, indicating that all the original interview notes from the Derry 4’s detention in Strand Road Holding Centre in February 1979 are missing.
The Derry 4 continue their campaign to seek justice by taking a civil action against the police for their wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, assault, battery and malicious prosecution in February 1979. The four men, three of whom were 17 and one 18 at the time of their arrests, were detained at Strand Road Holding Centre from the 26th February 1979 without access to lawyers or guardians/parents for periods of up to 3 days. All 4 allege that they were subjected to physical and verbal ill treatment by police and one alleges that he was subject to threats of physical violence regarding his family.
The 4 men were subsequently charged and prosecuted for a number of offences including the murder of Lt Stephen Kirby at Wapping Lane in Derry on the 14th February 1979. The sole basis for their prosecution was uncorroborated confession evidence. Patricia Coyle, Solicitor of Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors & Advocates, asked the PPS to review the case in 1998 following which they were formally acquitted of all charges on direction of the then Lord Chief Justice, Sir Robert Carswell on the 21st December 1998.
The September 2016 documents are the first official confirmation by the police that all of the original 1979 interview notes made by police for all 4 men are “missing”. Detailed information as to how exactly the notes went missing has not been provided by the police lawyers.
Patricia Coyle confirmed today that she has been seeking the release of these and other materials from the police since 2003. In May 2016 the lawyer also lodged an application for the release of covert tape recordings of the interviews between the police and the 4 men which she believes were made without the knowledge of the police by the Security Service/M15 in 1979.
Ms Coyle said today;
“The fact that the police representatives have now finally confirmed that the interview notes for all my 4 clients are missing, renders our application for disclosure of any covert recordings of the interviews all the more compelling. At this stage we also do not know if the notes are inadvertently missing or whether they have been subjected to deliberate destruction. Had the original interview notes been available they may have been suitable for forensic testing such as ESDA testing.”
Gerry McGowan of the Derry 4 said today;
“Given the history of our case, the fact that the original interview notes are missing is shocking but not surprising. It is difficult to believe that the RUC, the PPS and the Police Ombudsman have not been able to source the original interview notes since our acquittal in 1998. It is appalling that we have had to wait 38 years to be told this.”
Paul O Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre who assisted the Derry 4 in their complaint to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland regarding the conduct of the police in the original 1979 investigation said today;
“We know from the Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4 cases how important original police interview notes are. It is deeply suspicious that they have gone missing in the Derry 4 case.”
Harte, Coyle, Collins,
Solicitors & Advocates