25-YEAR WAIT | 

PSNI finally pay up and apologise for lax investigation into brutal LVF murder of GAA man

Sean Brown's killers were caught on a police camera as they drove their victim to his death. Three of them are still alive and free
Mark ‘Swinger’ Fulton believed to be one of the killer gang

Mark ‘Swinger’ Fulton believed to be one of the killer gang

Richard Sullivan

Sean Brown's LVF killers were caught on a police camera as they drove their victim to his death.

The four-man death squad drove past an RUC station in Toomebridge on their way to Randalstown where Mr Brown was murdered.

Loyalist sources have told the Sunday World Mr Brown was not the intended victim but once they failed to locate their primary target they abducted Mr Brown 61, as he locked the gates of Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC in May 1997.

He was bundled into the boot of a car before being taken on a 12 mile drive to his death.

Sean Brown

Sean Brown

Three of the four involved in the sectarian killing are still alive with the fourth, believed to be Mark 'Swinger' Fulton who was found dead in his cell at Maghaberry Prison in 2002.

The killer gang included two brothers and a man who lives a quiet life in north Antrim.

The revelation comes as the PSNI has paid an undisclosed sum to Mr Brown's family and apologised over inadequacies in the original investigation.

No-one has ever been convicted of the murder.

This week marked the 25th anniversary of his death.

A statement agreed between Mr Brown's family and the PSNI was read out in court on Thursday in which the victim was described as a "devoted family man and a pillar of the Bellaghy community".

Investigators at the scene in Randalstown of the murder of Sean Brown

Investigators at the scene in Randalstown of the murder of Sean Brown

It added that the PSNI "continues to engage fully in the ongoing inquest proceedings".

The Brown family's solicitor Niall Murphy, speaking outside court after the PSNI settlement, said the family should never have been in the position of having to take legal action.

"This family should never have had to take litigation to extract a semblance of accountability and all it is is an apology."

He added that while it was welcome, it "should never have been the case, there should have been an adequate, full, exhaustive investigation at the appropriate time".

The apology, along with an undisclosed financial settlement, brings the long-running legal action brought by Mr Brown's widow to an end.

It had been her case that the police had protected the LVF killers and that this was reflected in a sub-standard investigation conducted by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

The RUC was the police force at the time of Mr Brown's murder.

It was reformed and renamed as the PSNI in 2001.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Brown's grandson Damon Brown said it was a day of "mixed emotions" and described the settlement as "a step", after a terrible 25 years of struggle.

"It's one step forward instead of ten steps back," he said. "Hopefully the inquest will bring the answers we need."

The coroner's inquest has been consistently delayed due to several issues, including the disclosure of documents.

The Brown family have been campaigning for years, during which time there have been a number of reports criticising the RUC's investigation into the killing.

In 2004, the then Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan said an investigation by the RUC into Mr Brown's murder was "incomplete and inadequate".

It said the investigation had not been "efficiently and property carried out" and that "no earnest effort was made to identify those who had carried out the murder".

Mr Brown's murder was then re-examined by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team, which was also critical of the RUC investigation.

In 2015, it emerged during the inquest that relevant classified material was lost and redactions, including the blanking out of names, on 34 folders of non-sensitive material had not been completed by the PSNI.

Despite delays the family's solicitor Niall Murphy said the inquest will take place and has been scheduled.

Sean Brown was driven to his death

Sean Brown was driven to his death

He also paid tribute to Sean Brown's son, Damian Brown, who had attended every day of the inquest hearings.

He died in October 2021 after a short illness.

"There was 34 preliminary hearings, often days of frustration, often days where he left insulted, but he came back every single day," Mr Murphy said.

"While today is welcome, it is bittersweet that Damian isn't here."

He added: "Today is a validation of all of his perseverance to preserve the integrity of his father's memory."

The 25th anniversary of Sean Brown's death will be commemorated by his club Bellaghy Wolfe Tones with a number of events.

This included the planting of a tree and unveiling of a stone plaque, inscribed with the poem "The Augean Stables" written by the late Seamus Heaney after hearing about his death.

The poem was also read aloud by actor Stephen Rea to those in attendance including the GAA official's widow Bridie Brown.

richard.sullivan@sundayworld.com


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