Police failed 1991 murder victim

A DAMNING document from the Police Ombudsman has heavily criticised the inaction of the security forces before and after the brutal murder of young Portadown woman Margaret Perry in June 1991.

The document - prepared by Nuala O'Loan three years ago and obtained by the Portadown Times in the wake of the findings on the Claudy bombings - claims that the police were aware of threats to 26-year-old Margaret.

It also states that Special Branch failed to protect her, and withheld "from CID certain intelligence indicating who might have murdered her".

The killing of Margaret Perry - and its chilling aftermath - was one of the most harrowing of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

The civil cervant disappeared on June 21, 1991, but nothing was heard of her until her body was found in a shallow grave in Mullaghmore Woods, County Sligo, just over a year later.

The day after her remains were uncovered, the naked bodies of three local alleged IRA men were found near the South Armagh border, all having been shot through the head - Johnny Dignam (32), Aidan Starrs (34) and Gregory Burns (29).

An IRA statement claimed that she was killed because her former boyfriend Gregory Burns was an informer and that all three were slain "by people acting on behalf of British Intelligence".

The IRA also claimed that Margaret, whose home was at Churchill Park, Portadown, was killed because she found out that Burns was informing to the security forces.

But when the Portadown Times spoke to her mother Mrs Mary Perry this week, she insisted that her daughter knew nothing about Burns' alleged activities.

"It is known that Burns and another man turned up at her work one day - she was a civil servant with Training and Employment in Lisburn - and Margaret happened to come upon them," said Mrs Perry who was widowed five years ago when her husband David passed away. "We suspect now that the other man was Burns' minder, but Margaret was totally unaware of any of his so-called activities."

Mrs Perry added that she reported Margaret as a missing person to the RUC soon after her disappearance, but "by their attitude, and the fact that Margaret didn't phone home nor did she touch her bank account, I knew she was dead".

It is well documented that Mrs Perry soon realised her daughter had been murdered, and she emphatically passed her suspicions on to the security forces, including names of people she insisted were involved.

"But no action was taken and I was told nothing," she said. "The Ombudsman's document also states firmly that Margaret's life was known to be in danger - and yet she was not informed, nor did she receive any protection."

This claim is backed up by the document, which was personally delivered to Mrs Perry some time ago by the then Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan.

"Mrs O'Loan was very thorough and very caring," she recalled. "I did not ask for the document, but it was the result of another inquiry and Mrs O'Loan kindly brought it to me and explained how sorry she was over the whole sordid affair."

A PSNI spokesman said yesterday (Thursday) that the document had never been made public as it had obviously been prepared and delivered personally by Mrs O'Loan.

"In that case, we cannot comment on private correspondence," the spokesman added.