‘Who axed Sunday murder probe fund?’

Micky McKinney, left, and John Kelly lead a previous Bloody Sunday march from the Creggan shops. (3101PG30)
Micky McKinney, left, and John Kelly lead a previous Bloody Sunday march from the Creggan shops. (3101PG30)
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Relatives of those killed on Bloody Sunday said questions remain over who gave the order to pull funding on the live murder investigation.

Mickey McKinney and John Kelly spoke after joining other relatives at a meeting with detectives from Crime Operations Branch at the City Hotel in Derry on Wednesday night.

Mr Kelly- whose brother Michael was one of 13 men and boys shot and killed on January 30th, 1972- said he now believed the investigation is finished, after the majority of detectives working on it were sent home yesterday, leaving only a skeleton crew in place.

Mr McKinney- whose brother William was also shot and killed by paratroopers that day- said relatives were warned at the meeting that the murder probe could now slip down the priority list and join other legacy cases.

Both men questioned how £4m, which they were told by former Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie had been ring-fenced for the investigation, has disappeared.

Mr Kelly said yesterday he believed the decision to pull funding was political: “The 12 guys who were the backbone of the Inquiry are now gone, and I believe that when they went home the Inquiry ended.

“We were told previously that it would have to be likes of another Omagh Bombing for this to end. I asked last night ‘where did the money go?’ They weren’t able to answer it. That to me is scandalous. Money is more important than justice.”

Mickey McKinney meanwhile said: “For our part, we have always been a bit suspicious over how and when they were going to interfere or stop us getting justice. The detective herself said they had more questions than answers, so who’s responsible for pulling the plug on this? Does it come down to the Chief Constable or is it somebody beyond that?”

Some relatives expressed shock over a perceived silence from politicians on the matter.

PSNI Detective Superintendent Karen Baxter said they were only told earlier this month that most of the staff working on the investigation would be let go due to “severe financial pressures”.

She said: “We regret that this has happened. Our preference would have been to continue with the investigation, given all the work which has already been done, but that is no longer possible.

“We understand that the decision to put the investigation on hold has caused much hurt to the families. We apologise for this but it is a matter outside our control.”

She added: “We understand our commitments and our obligations. We still adhere to these principles, including those which relate to the past, but we have been forced to operate within a severely reduced budget. Regrettably, this means we have to make hard, unpleasant choices.”

Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney said: “There can be no question of this important investigation being downgraded or scaled down. I will be raising my concerns over this investigation with the PSNI and urging them to ensure it is adequately resourced.”

A follow-up meeting is expected in the coming weeks.