The RUC knew about an IRA booby trap bomb which killed three people in Creggan 25 years ago but failed to warn those living nearby about the danger, a new report by the Police Ombudsman has found.
Eugene Dalton and Sheila Lewis were killed when the bomb exploded in a flat at 38 Kildrum Gardens on August 31, 1988. A third person, Gerard Curran, died later from injuries sustained in the blast.
They had gone to look for a neighbour who had not been seen for a week when they triggered the booby trap device, which had been planted by the IRA to target the security forces.
The incident became known as the ‘good samaritan’ bombing.
The case was referred to the Police Ombudsman in 2005 by the Dalton family.
In its report, published today, the Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, found that the police had information five days before the bombing that there was a booby trap bomb in a property in the Creggan area but did nothing to warn anyone. Dr Maguire also found that, based on information and intelligence available, the RUC “ought to have known” where the bomb was.
His report also states that the RUC was more concerned with protecting its own officers rather than the public.
“There was an obligation on police to protect the lives of the public and I have to conclude that they failed in this regard. They failed to do all that could reasonably have been expected of them in the circumstances,” he said.
The Ombudsman also criticised the RUC’s investigation of the bombing at the time, describing it as “flawed and incomplete.”
The Dalton family also claimed that the RUC had failed to act in order to protect an informant, a suggestion rejected by the Ombudsman in his report. The family welcomed today’s report and said they believe the RUC and IRA were equally responsible for the deaths. “The people who are responsible for the deaths of our daddy, Sean, Sheila Lewis and Gerard Curran, were those who planted the bomb, the IRA. They showed a shocking disregard for our families, and the people of Creggan. We believe, however, that the RUC were equally culpable,” the family said.
The family also said they still believe the RUC failed to act in order to protect an informer within the IRA. “The Police Ombudsman says he found no evidence that police acted to protect an informant. However, the Ombudsman was hindered in his investigation of this issue by the non co-operation of senior officers both within District Command and Special Branch.”
The family also said they will be seeking legal action as to the next step. “After 25 years of lies, deception and evasion, we finally feel vindicated. However we have no sense of jubilation. These findings are long overdue,” the family said in a statement.
Responding to the report, PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie apologised to the familes of those killed. “For police officers, whose duty it is to protect life, there is a deep and sincere sorrow for the loss of the lives of Eugene Dalton, Sheila Lewis and Gerard Curran. To their friends and families, on behalf of the Police Service I am truly sorry for the loss of their loved ones.”
(For further coverage see Friday’s Derry Journal).