Letter signed by Breandan MacCionnaith to the attention of Six Counties Coroner, John Leckey

Earlier today (Friday 23rd March), I attended what was officially described as a preliminary hearing by the Six County Coroner, John Leckey, into the murder of Sam Marshall in Lurgan on 7th March 1990.
Indeed, just 48 hours beforehand, the Coroner’s Office faxed a letter to the Marshall family’s legal representative.
Lest there be any doubt what the purpose of today’s hearing was meant to be, the communication from the Coroner’s Office clearly and unequivocally stated:

“The agenda is:
1. Disclosure
2. Arrangements to hold an inquest.”

However, from the outset of the hearing, it quickly became apparent that this agenda was not, in fact, to be adhered to.
Beginning by repeating what he said at a similar hearing in 2008 into the Marshall murder, Mr Leckey said that as a trial linked to the murder had been held (in 1992), he was now of the view that he would further delay a decision on any inquest until an investigation is conducted by the Police Ombudsman’s office in case it unearths new information.
The coroner said: “At the present time I cannot say an inquest is necessary and I am delaying that decision until after the Police Ombudsman’s report.”
Last year, the Ombudsman’s office, which probes complaints against the Six County police, was hit by a damning report on its handling of “historic” cases where collusion between state forces and unionist death squads is suspected. As a result, all such cases were effectively put into abeyance.
A legal representative for the Police Ombudsmans office told the hearing that it faced financial barriers in investigating historic cases, but hoped those would be resolved and a plan to review all such cases could be implemented. He added that it could take at least six years before that process would be complete.
The Coroner then said that he would take no further action until the Police Ombudsman’s case was completed – effectively suspending any decision on holding an inquest for at least six years or more.
Despite submissions opposing the Coroner’s move from legal representatives for the Marshall family and the two other men targeted in the shooting in 1990, Mr Leckey then closed the hearing.
In 2008, Mr Leckey directed the Marshall family to enter into a process with both the Historical Enquiries Team and the Police Ombudsman’s Office which the Marshall family reluctantly did.
In September last year, the Ombudsman’s Office finally wrote to the Marshall family informing them that three years on from 2008, no investigation had been initiated.
The Marshall family also entered into a process with the HET which also commenced in 2008.
Earlier this month, new information was published about Sam Marshall’s murder – information unearthed during the HET process. That found that up to nine undercover British soldiers using six different cars had Sam Marshall under direct surveillance at the time of his murder.
At least two of those soldiers were on foot and following only a few yards behind Sam when he was murdered – a fact that the British state had kept hidden for over 20 years.
Mr Leckey has a copy of the HET report and is aware of those facts.
What other “new” inforrmation does he now need in order to proceed with an inquest?
More significantly, what exactly happened in the 46 hours between 1.06pm on Wednesday 21st March, when the Coroner’s letter (quoted above) was faxed to the Marshall family’s legal representative, and 11.00am today which completely changed the agenda of the hearing?
Was pressure put on John Leckey to further delay making arrangements for an inquest into Sam Marshall’s murder?
If so, who applied that pressure?
Who fears to see the full facts surrounding the murder of Sam Marshall being revealed?

Le meas,
Breandan Mac Cionnaith


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