Northern Ireland

Colum Marks: New investigation into 1991 RUC killing of IRA man

Colum Marks Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The family of IRA man Colum Marks claim that the RUC shot him after he was arrested in April 1991, but the policeman who fired the shots claimed Marks ignored a number of warnings to stop

A new investigation is to be launched into the killing of an IRA member by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in Downpatrick, County Down, 25 years ago.

An eyewitness has come forward and supported claims by the family of Colum Marks that he was shot after being arrested in April 1991.

The police ombudsman has said he will launch an investigation into the circumstances of the killing.

He took the action after receiving new information from the family's lawyers.

'Shoot-to-kill'

The police officer who fired the shots said he believed Marks was armed, and claimed he refused to stop when an attempt was made to arrest him.

The RUC had intelligence that the IRA was planning to launch a mortar attack on a police patrol and were lying in wait when the IRA unit arrived.

Lawyers for his family have said the advance knowledge police had about the attack meant they should have been in a position to arrest him without opening fire.

The police claimed Marks ignored a number of warnings to stop and was shot because it was feared he posed a threat.

No gun was ever found, and his family claimed Marks was shot after being arrested.

Lawyers for the family had been taking legal action in a bid to force the Police Ombudsman, Michael Maguire, to investigate the circumstances of the killing.

'Eyewitness'

The ombudsman had said he could not do so because the RUC had already investigated the shooting.

But that all changed when an eyewitness came forward two months ago.

The eyewitness has said that on the night of the shooting he saw a man, believed to have been Colum Marks, being walked along a street under police guard.

He said it was clear the man was under arrest, and that three RUC officers were with him.

That completely contradicts the police version of events.

Lawyers for the Marks family disclosed the new information to the ombudsman.

Their legal action was withdrawn in the High Court on Thursday after it was revealed that the ombudsman has now decided to launch a new investigation.

The decision was welcomed by one of the family's legal representatives.

"This new information fundamentally undermines the police account of what happened," said Gavin Booth.

"It supports the family's claim that Colum was shot after being arrested, at a time when police must have known he was not armed, and that this was clearly a shoot-to-kill operation."

In a statement, the police ombudsman said an assessment of the case will now be carried out to establish when the investigation can begin.

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