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badlands Brother of murder victim Marian Beattie speaks of shock as case is passed to PSNI legacy branch

'It's hard to imagine the police doing a worse job investigating the killing of our Marian'

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Marian Beattie

Marian Beattie

Marian Beattie

The family of murder victim Marian Beattie have never given up hope of finding her killer nearly 50 years after her death.

But they're in the dark about why Marian's killing in 1973 has been handed to the PSNI's Legacy Investigations Branch.

New documentary Murder in the Badlands reveals her brutal death is among 133 killings not related to the Troubles which are now the responsibility of the Legacy Branch. Its workload totals almost 1,000 cases including paramilitary and security force killings.

Marian, from Portadown, was just 18 when her body was found in March 1973 at the bottom of Hadden's Quarry near Aughnacloy.

She'd gone to a charity dance with her roadie brother Isadore and a friend in a shed a few hundred yards away, attended by 200 people.

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Isadore Beattie

Isadore Beattie

Isadore Beattie

The teenager left the event just after 1am with a young man with distinctive long hair and according to her watch, which stopped as she fell 100 feet to her death, she had been murdered less than an hour later.

She suffered multiple injuries, including a blow to her face which left the imprint of a pipe, and had to be buried in a closed coffin.

Police found several spent matches around her body which suggested her killer had stood over her lifeless remains, and her clothes had been partially removed.

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Robert Giles, a criminologist who has looked in-depth at the circumstances of Marian's death

Robert Giles, a criminologist who has looked in-depth at the circumstances of Marian's death

Robert Giles, a criminologist who has looked in-depth at the circumstances of Marian's death

Bizarrely the buttons which had been ripped off her clothes were found in a neat pile, but all of the items recovered by the forensics team and part of her file have now been lost.

The alarm was raised at Aughnacloy police station.

Brother Isadore, who was with the search team when they discovered his sister's body, says issues with the investigation were apparent almost immediately when he helped to compose a photofit of the young man who'd left with Marian.

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"I said, 'that's not what I told you. That's nowhere close to what I told you the person looked like.'

"They said, 'OK, we'll take care of it,' and that's the photofit that went out to the news, the one I said wasn't right.

"I had to call my parents to let them know what was going on. It was the shortest longest conversation ever I had in my life.

"There was very few words but it seemed to go on forever and ever and ever. To hear your father crying over the phone is not a good thing."

Decades later the family discovered an arrest had been made in 1973, which the murder team didn't tell them about.

Criminologist Robert Giles has also looked at the case and established the identity of a potential suspect, who's still alive, which was passed to police in 2020.

There was renewed interest in the case after a Stephen Nolan True Crime podcast and in 2019 the Pat Finucane Centre also received an anonymous letter pointing to the same person.

Last year, after the PSNI learned Marian's murder was the subject of a documentary, an individual was questioned by police but there have been no further developments.

The Legacy Investigations Branch (LIB) says it has assessed the value of information passed to it by Marian's family and is "resolved to investigate any new credible lines of inquiry".

Susan McKay, the TV crime series consultant, says the transfer of the case to LIB is unexplained.

"We still don't know why the police didn't investigate this properly.

"This was a small country dance. It's hard to imagine they could have done a worse job in terms of investigating it," she said.

Government proposals to stop any further prosecutions of legacy killings could also mean that similar murders are never resolved.

"It's really hard to understand why they would have put this murder into the Legacy Branch, unless it was just tossed in there because they didn't know what else to do with it," says Susan.

"It makes you wonder what other cases have been thrown into legacy that don't deserve to be there."

roisin.gorman@sundayworld.com

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