Inquest told: Gerard Hampson ‘associates’ didn’t trust him ‘not to speak’

An inquest into the death of a Derry man whose body was found on the shores of Lough Neagh in 2008 has been told by a police officer that he believes the deceased was killed.

The late Gerard Hampson.
The late Gerard Hampson.

The detective inspector was giving evidence about police inquiries into Gerard Hampson’s disappearance before his death.

Mr Hampson (53), of Northland Road, was found dead at Lough Neagh on January 9, 2008 after he had been missing for several weeks. At the end of the officer’s evidence this week, the Coroner Joe McCrisken asked him what he believed had happened to the dead man.

The experienced officer said that, in his personal opinion, he believed that Mr Hampson, having “done time, couldn’t face doing more time” and his “associates did not trust him not to speak if spoken to”.

He said that, if Mr Hampson had voluntarily gone into the water, he would have expected to find clothes.

The inquest also heard that a forensic report linked the deceased to a kidnapping in Mullingar.

Earlier, the inquest heard that a man who was one of the last people to see Gérard Hampson alive told Gardai, “if the PSNI don’t have him, someone has done him in”.

A detective sergeant from the PSNI told the inquest that, on December 18, he received a call from the Garda to say they had a man in custody who was one of the last people to see Mr Hampson alive.

The Garda said the man was making no comment but, after he was specifically asked about Mr Hampson, he made the comment about someone doing him in. The PSNI officer said he later spoke to the man by telephone but elicited no further information.

The inquest heard the PSNI was seeking Mr Hampson for what the officer described as a “serious arrestable offence”.

He said that, after Mr Hampson was reported as missing, a meeting was held by police and, when he reported that CID was looking for him, the missing person inquiry was halted. The officer said police believed that the missing man would eventually turn up.

The inquest also heard from another witness, Noel McCartney, who said he had been assisting the Hampson family in the search for their father.

He said he had several meetings with the PSNI in early December about the disappearance and felt that they were not taking it seriously.

Coroner McCrisken said that, as far as he was aware, a solicitor had told Mr Hampson at the beginning of November 2008 about a forensic report linking him to a kidnapping in Mullingar.

Mr McCartney told the hearing his impression was that police believed the missing man was ‘lying low’ until after the Christmas and New Year period and would then come forward.

The inquest heard that, despite police visiting several addresses, they did not find Mr Hampson but that he did maintain contact with his family until the end of November and, then, all contact stopped.

The inquest heard that this would have been ‘out of character’ for Mr Hampson.

Mr McCartney told the hearing he felt the PSNI could have done more to search for Mr Hampson.

The Coroner reminded everyone that it was not the function of the inquest to critique the PSNI.

Earlier, the inquest heard from the man who found Mr Hampson’s body as he was out walking hs dog.

He recounted how he saw the naked body lying in the water.

The witness, who lived and worked in the area, said that, when he found the body, he sent for a priest and also sprinkled Holy Water on the corpse.

The hearing continues.