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Full Hearings

Hearing: 3rd October 2008, day 58

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ROSEMARY NELSON

PUBLIC INQUIRY

 

 

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held at:
The Interpoint Centre
20-24 York Street
Belfast BT15 1AQ


on Friday, 3rd October 2008
commencing at 10.15 am


Day 58

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

1 Friday, 3 October 2008

2 (10.20 am)

3 COLONEL ANGUS LOUDON (sworn)

4 Questions by MR SKELTON

5 THE CHAIRMAN: Yes.

6 MR SKELTON: Colonel Loudon, please will you give your full

7 names to the Inquiry.

8 A. It is Colonel Angus John Loudon.

9 Q. You have made a written statement to the Inquiry, which

10 is dated 24 April 2008. That can be found at

11 RNI-845-037 (displayed), and on the final page, which is

12 page RNI-845-045 (displayed), we can see your signature

13 there.

14 May I start by asking you briefly to explain your

15 background? I understand the joined the Army in 1982?

16 A. That's correct, yes.

17 Q. After a period of service for some 14 years or so, you

18 were promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1996. Is that

19 correct?

20 A. That's correct.

21 Q. In the period with which we are concerned, you were the

22 commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion RIR based in

23 Portadown?

24 A. That's also correct.

25 Q. Is it right that you were in post there until July 2000?

 

 

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1 A. That's correct.

2 Q. I understand that you were subsequently promoted to full

3 colonel?

4 A. That's also correct.

5 Q. Are you still serving in the Army?

6 A. I am, yes.

7 Q. Just briefly about your battalion, you were, I think,

8 part of the 3rd Brigade, were you?

9 A. Yes, we were.

10 Q. How many battalions were there in that brigade?

11 A. There were two Royal Irish Home Service battalions and I

12 think there were, at that point, three regular

13 battalions. There was the South Armagh battalion, which

14 was (inaudible) six-month tour battalion, the East

15 Tyrone battalion, also six months.

16 Q. If you could go a little bit more slowly for the

17 stenographer's benefit.

18 A. Okay.

19 Q. Thank you.

20 A. And the other battalion was based in Ballykinler, and

21 they were a resident two-year battalion.

22 Q. Your battalion, what sort of battalion was it?

23 A. It was Royal Irish Home Service, which meant that it

24 drew its soldiers from the community. They were all

25 based in Northern Ireland. About half my battalion was

 

 

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1 full-time and half were what we call part-timers.

2 Q. How many people were in it?

3 A. In total, I think the established strength was around

4 about 1,200.

5 Q. And spread across roughly ten companies?

6 A. That's correct.

7 Q. Can you describe the demographic in terms of the

8 background of the people? Was there a preponderance of

9 Protestant soldiers?

10 A. Yes, there was.

11 Q. What sort of percentage?

12 A. I would be hard pressed to put a precise percentage, but

13 I would say somewhere in the region of 75 per cent.

14 Q. You were, therefore, in command of just over 1,000

15 troops. Were there any issues about the relationship

16 between the troops themselves and the community, given

17 that they were a Home Service battalion?

18 A. No, none that I was aware of. In many cases it made the

19 job easier because they understood the community better,

20 they understood some of the dynamics of the community

21 because they came from it.

22 Q. Did you have to keep an eye, for example, on whether the

23 troops were associating with the paramilitaries which

24 you were working against?

25 A. It was not a problem that ever came to my notice in my

 

 

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1 two years in command.

2 Q. There was not a single instance of that kind of problem?

3 A. No.

4 Q. In terms of your role as the commanding officer, you

5 reported directly to your brigadier, did you?

6 A. I did.

7 Q. And he reported up towards headquarters in Lisburn.

8 Could you briefly describe your responsibilities as

9 commanding officer?

10 A. Well, pretty well everything, actually. I was

11 responsible for the operations predominantly that the

12 battalion conducted, bearing in mind the battalion was

13 to operations consistently. It didn't do what normal

14 regular battalions of the Army do. It had training

15 exercises and downtime.

16 My principal role was running the operations that

17 the battalion conducted as part of the brigade. I was

18 responsible for training, administration, personnel and

19 all the associated infrastructure that went with

20 a battalion permanently based in Northern Ireland.

21 Q. Put simply, is your principal task to support the RUC in

22 the maintenance of public order and the response to

23 threats in the community?

24 A. I wouldn't put it like that. I would say that the

25 mission was to support the RUC in the suppression of

 

 

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1 terrorism and in the restoration of normality. That was

2 what we were there to do.

3 Q. You mention in your statement, which we can see at

4 paragraph 3 on page RNI-845-038 (displayed), that you

5 had regular liaison with the RUC, and you specifically

6 say Portadown, Lurgan and Rathfriland subdivisions, and

7 then mention the divisional action committees. This was

8 something you attended, was it?

9 A. Yes.

10 Q. What was the purpose of those committees?

11 A. These were held on a weekly basis and the principal aim

12 was to decide how to approach the policing and the

13 support to that policing for the following week in those

14 subdivisions that you have seen in the statement.

15 Q. And you mention in that paragraph that it was attended

16 by the RUC Divisional Commander. What rank was he?

17 A. He was a chief superintendent.

18 Q. And, likewise, the Divisional Head of Special Branch.

19 Do you mean the Regional Head of Special Branch who

20 would have been a chief superintendent too?

21 A. No, we tend to have the Divisional Head of Special

22 Branch going to that.

23 Q. Who would be a superintendent?

24 A. As far as I remember.

25 Q. What was the Special Branch input into these meetings?

 

 

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1 A. Well, they were, like myself and everybody else, there

2 to offer information that might be of use to the way in

3 which we might conduct operations in the subsequent

4 two-week period.

5 Q. Can you give us an example of the kind of issues that

6 would have come up and which you would have planned

7 together in such a meeting?

8 A. We would be looking ahead to see what was going on. As

9 you know, in that particular part of Northern Ireland

10 and mid-Ulster, there was a great number of parades took

11 place over the months, really, from May through

12 until September. So we had to consider the possibility

13 of public order. This is, I have to say, also in the

14 crucible of Drumcree, which was going on at the time.

15 So that took up a lot of our time, working out how to

16 police that. And then the general day-to-day

17 counter-terrorism operation, patrolling, supporting the

18 police in their activities to ensure that we did the

19 best we could to achieve our mission.

20 Q. Were you directed effectively by the RUC Commander or

21 was it very much a joint effort on your part?

22 A. Yes, it was very much a joint effort. We didn't issue

23 orders to each other, if that's what you mean.

24 Q. Outside of the formal planning meetings, did you develop

25 a relationship separately with the individual senior

 

 

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1 officers?

2 A. In the RUC?

3 Q. Yes.

4 A. Not extensively.

5 Q. We heard yesterday, for example, that the Regional

6 Military Intelligence Officer would have had regular

7 contact with the Head of Special Branch in the region

8 and some of his more junior officers. Was that not

9 something that was necessary to your role?

10 A. In that respect, yes. I did see the Divisional

11 Commander outside of the meetings. I wouldn't say that

12 I developed a particularly close relationship, but that

13 was just purely because he lived some distance away and

14 we didn't socialise together.

15 My company commanders had a relationship with the

16 Subdivisional Commander, and that was probably the most

17 important one because they were doing the day-to-day

18 policing and soldiering on the ground.

19 Q. Thank you. May I ask you about the issue of threats,

20 which is obviously a primary task for you to respond to

21 in the military? How did you receive information about

22 threats to the local community?

23 A. In principal terms, the threats would come through what

24 is called an action sheet and that would be issued by

25 normally Special Branch if they got particular specific

 

 

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1 information about a specific threat, perhaps in

2 a particular area at a particular time.

3 There was always of course the undercurrent threat

4 that emanated from the paramilitaries on both sides of

5 the community and that was an ongoing feature. So we

6 had to, to some extent, attempt to obviate that threat

7 by pre-emptive operations and just to maintain security.

8 But, of course, we did react, as I say, to these

9 specific action sheets.

10 Q. And mentioned previously the focus of Drumcree as an

11 issue for you to be engaged with. Could you describe

12 that in more detail? What was the military role there?

13 A. The military role there was to support the RUC in the

14 maintenance of public order in that area, and so on

15 a regular basis the police and ourselves would be

16 operating on what was called the interface at Drumcree

17 church.

18 Q. And did you see there to be a paramilitary interest in

19 that dispute?

20 A. It manifested itself from time to time, but it was

21 mostly a public order issue emanating from a -- issues,

22 shall I say.

23 Q. So the two sides of community potentially coming into

24 conflict with each other physically which you needed to

25 deter or prevent?

 

 

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1 A. Yes.

2 Q. In terms of the Loyalist paramilitaries in your area,

3 which Loyalist groups were you particularly concerned

4 about?

5 A. Principally, I was concerned with the LVF, the Loyalist

6 Volunteer Force.

7 Q. Could you expand on what your concerns were and how you

8 would have met them in military terms?

9 A. The concerns with the LVF. They were a bit

10 unpredictable, as far as I remember. They were very

11 interested in close quarter assassination of other

12 paramilitaries from the Republican community. They were

13 indiscriminate to some extent, but they weren't very

14 numerous and they emanated from the sort of Portadown

15 area. So there weren't terribly many of them, but they

16 were a bit unpredictable and they had a particular modus

17 operandi, normally, up until the time I took command,

18 principally of close quarter assassination using

19 pistols.

20 Q. Was it the role of some of your troops in your battalion

21 to keep an eye on them in terms of making notes about

22 their movements, vehicle checkpoints and so on?

23 A. Well, that would be typical of any operation in

24 Northern Ireland, that our operations involving foot

25 patrols or vehicle patrols and vehicle checkpoints would

 

 

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1 not -- I wouldn't say monitor the movement, but would

2 note people of interest if we came across them.

3 Q. And, therefore, the particular contacts who were alleged

4 to have been in those groups would have been

5 particularly familiar to your troops on the ground?

6 A. Yes.

7 Q. What about the Republican side of things?

8 A. That issue mainly emanated from the Lurgan area and

9 particularly from the area of the Kilwilke Estate. I'm

10 talking about in my particular area of responsibility.

11 And again, not very numerous, but again, they had

12 a ruthless streak in them and we had to do our best,

13 again, to pre-empt it, the way we did for the Loyalists.

14 Q. There were two murders that occurred in June 1997 of two

15 police officers in Lurgan. I presume you were aware of

16 that?

17 A. Yes, I took command a year later. So I wasn't actually

18 in command at the time.

19 Q. Would you have been briefed that it would have been

20 Lurgan PIRA responsible for that?

21 A. I was aware of it, I think, at the time when I took

22 command, but I stress it was 12 months before I took

23 command.

24 Q. In 1998, which is after the peace process is established

25 and the paramilitaries are on ceasefire, was there still

 

 

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1 a concern that your local paramilitaries, i.e. the LVF and

2 the local Lurgan Republicans, were in some way not

3 signed up to that peace process and, therefore, were

4 still volatile and dangerous?

5 A. It is very difficult to remember, but so far as

6 I recall, the LVF were not particularly interested in

7 the peace process. I couldn't really speak for the

8 Lurgan Republicans, bearing in mind at that point that

9 the Republican movement had split into two and there was

10 the RIRA or the dissidents, and there was the

11 Provisional IRA, and it was never clear to me in which

12 particular camp they sat.

13 Q. What did you know about Rosemary Nelson?

14 A. Not very much. I knew she was a solicitor. I knew she

15 had an office in Lurgan, and in broad terms, apart from

16 the fact I also was aware that she had on occasions

17 represented Colin Duffy, I didn't know very much about

18 her at all.

19 Q. Focusing on Colin Duffy in particular, what would you,

20 as battalion commander, have been aware of about him?

21 A. Well, he was the principal contact of interest from the

22 IRA side in my TAOR.

23 Q. Tactical --

24 A. Tactical area of responsibility.

25 Q. Thank you. What did that mean in terms of your

 

 

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1 consideration of his activities and what danger he may

2 have presented to the community?

3 A. It meant to me that we had to keep a particularly close

4 eye on him and his movements.

5 Q. And was that something that you kept a personal eye on

6 or was it something you just expected as, of course,

7 your junior officers to do?

8 A. Coming back to an earlier point you made, if there was

9 a particular indication that something was afoot, we

10 might want to, say, focus more assets in that particular

11 area to watch what might be going on. But on a general

12 day-to-day basis, he was merely one of a number of

13 people from both sides of the community whom we would

14 want to keep an eye on.

15 Q. In terms of deployment of assets about a particular

16 activity or alleged activity, was that an RUC-led

17 deployment?

18 A. Yes.

19 Q. Now, you knew that Rosemary Nelson was representing him.

20 How had that come to your attention?

21 A. I can't recall. I think it was just part of the fabric

22 I had picked up on taking command and becoming aware of

23 some of the local figures from all walks of life and

24 what they were doing.

25 Q. And you mention in your statement -- and to assist you,

 

 

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1 this is paragraph 15 on page RNI-845-041 (displayed) --

2 there you say some of the information may come from the

3 media and from local opinion formers. Who do you mean

4 by the "opinion formers"?

5 A. Opinion formers formed a large group in the community,

6 from ministers, priests, local councillors, local

7 tradespersons who ran businesses because we, as a Home

8 Service battalion based in Portadown, probably devoted

9 more of our time to developing relations with the local

10 community than you would do in a six-month tour in South

11 Armagh.

12 I regularly held lunches to which I would invite

13 members of both sides of the community from Craigavon

14 Council, as I say, local industry, trades, et cetera.

15 Q. And you were aware of her association as a legal adviser

16 with the GRRC?

17 A. Yes, I was.

18 Q. And did you draw any conclusions from the fact that she

19 was representing a particular Nationalist section of the

20 community about a particularly volatile issue? She was

21 also representing Mr Duffy. Did that make her, to your

22 mind, partisan in any way?

23 A. Not necessarily. I have to think she was behaving in

24 a thoroughly professional manner at all times.

25 Q. Was that a view that was shared by the opinion formers

 

 

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1 to whom you spoke about her?

2 A. I don't recall offering an opinion about it.

3 Q. May I show you a few of the reports that were picked up

4 by the military during this period? And it may be

5 that -- I think probably the better one is the daily

6 brief of 11 October 1998 because this is when you were

7 in post. That can be found at RNI-511-180 (displayed).

8 Now, this, we can see, is entitled "brief" and it is

9 a 3 Infantry Brigade daily brief and the date, as I say,

10 is 11 October.

11 Who would have produced this?

12 A. That's a product from the brigade headquarters and it

13 looks like it is probably from the G2 staff.

14 Q. Would you have seen it?

15 A. Probably not.

16 Q. Why not?

17 A. Because this is a level of command higher than mine as

18 commanding officer of the battalion. The person who

19 might have seen this would have been my intelligence

20 officer.

21 Q. And we can see the dissemination level is 3 there, which

22 is, I think, the lowest level of dissemination. You can

23 see the DSL at the top right?

24 A. Yes.

25 Q. Would that have come to your intelligence officer

 

 

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1 through one of the computer systems?

2 A. I imagine so. I couldn't be clear.

3 Q. Can you explain briefly what your intelligence officer

4 was tasked to do in relation to this sort of document?

5 A. His staff would have received this kind of document on

6 a regular basis, probably a daily basis, and they would

7 use this of course to continue bringing up an

8 intelligence picture that we always tried to maintain,

9 a common operating picture, a pattern of life picture,

10 to see whether anything abnormal sprung out of the

11 normal. We always talk about the absence of the normal

12 and the presence of the abnormal.

13 So this would merely be part of a bigger jigsaw, a

14 fluid jigsaw and that is, indeed, the end to which it

15 was put. It is possible that he might have brought it

16 to my attention at a morning meeting verbally, but not

17 in written form.

18 Q. Let us look at the contents of this, which is overleaf

19 on page RNI-511-181 (displayed), and I would

20 particularly like to focus on paragraph 10 there,

21 please. And you can see it says there that Colin Duffy

22 was stopped driving Rosemary Nelson's silver BMW late at

23 night, and the comment is:

24 "Rosemary is Duffy's solicitor. The reason for him

25 being in the Kinnego area may have been an attempt to

 

 

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1 move back to Lurgan from elsewhere in Armagh without

2 detection from the security forces in a clean vehicle.

3 However, this is unconfirmed at present."

4 It looks, does it, like this has been picked up by

5 the troops in the locality, i.e. your troops, and then

6 been passed up to G2 and then come back as a report

7 through to the intelligence officer? Would that be the

8 correct pathway?

9 A. Yes, of course, but it is possible he was stopped by the

10 police.

11 Q. So this may have been a police checkpoint?

12 A. Yes.

13 Q. This level of information, how would it have been

14 processed and considered by your intelligence officer?

15 A. Yet again, I had an intelligence analyst, an NCO, who

16 would work on each -- my areas. So one for the

17 Portadown, one for the Lurgan, one for the Rathfriland.

18 And the NCO for this particular area would probably use

19 this as background building block material just to

20 ensure that he is keeping abreast of what is going on in

21 his area, so that he is able to identify these patterns

22 or absences of patterns.

23 Q. Presumably, it is not sufficiently important for you

24 yourself to be briefed about this kind of thing, is it?

25 A. Not unless at the time we were specifically looking to

 

 

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1 see what Colin Duffy was doing. I don't recall that

2 being the case.

3 Q. The NCO who is processing this kind of material, what is

4 he actually producing and what of it do you see?

5 A. As I say, he is maintaining a picture of what was

6 happening in the area, and if he feels either he can

7 volunteer information through the intelligence

8 officer -- and this is in very general terms -- about

9 things that he has noticed are of interest, or we may

10 ask him to produce his analysis of what is happening at

11 a given moment in time if we think it is appropriate.

12 Q. Were you aware of concerns about Rosemary Nelson's

13 safety in this period?

14 A. No.

15 Q. And were you aware of any concerns about the safety of,

16 for example, members of the Coalition, the Garvaghy Road

17 Residents Coalition?

18 A. Not specifically, as I recall.

19 Q. Did you or your officers or your military troops receive

20 any information about threats against Rosemary Nelson?

21 A. Not that I recall.

22 Q. Are you aware of any specific Loyalist plans to target

23 any specific people in the area, Portadown or Lurgan?

24 A. No.

25 Q. I would like, if I may, to look at the tasking

 

 

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1 forecasts, and the first document I would like you to

2 look at is at RNI-512-023, please (displayed).

3 Now, you can see the title of that is the

4 "J Division 3R Irish tactical area of responsibility,

5 operational task forecast in the period September 1999

6 and October 1999."

7 This was produced by another witness to this

8 Inquiry, who is the captain officer.

9 Were you involved yourself in the production of

10 these sorts of forecasts?

11 A. No, I gave general overall direction on a monthly/weekly

12 basis and the precise detail of these documents was as

13 a result of the work between the operations officer and

14 his counterparts in the RUC subdivisions.

15 Q. Who would have been his counterpart?

16 A. I think there was a planning sergeant in the Lurgan and

17 Portadown and Rathfriland subdivisions who they worked

18 together with.

19 Q. Once one has produced this forecast, is it set in stone

20 or does it retain some flexibility for contingencies on

21 the ground?

22 A. Absolutely it maintains that flexibility. We have to be

23 able to respond to emerging threats or incidents. So

24 this is a framework on which you can hang your

25 programme, but it clearly can be overtaken by events.

 

 

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1 Q. Now, we heard yesterday that in early 1999, February

2 to March, there were a number of threats that came

3 through to the Regional Military Intelligence Officer,

4 and one of those was a Loyalist threat to target

5 Catholic members of the public. And I will show you a

6 document, if I may, at RNI-512-012 (displayed).

7 You can see there it is a handwritten document. It

8 is dated February 1999, the title is "Loyalist

9 paramilitary general threat", and the text reads:

10 "Loyalist paramilitaries have planned to carry out

11 further attacks to Roman Catholic targets in the

12 mid-Ulster area. The unpredictability of these

13 groupings makes it impossible to identify any such

14 targets. However, indications are that the attacks are

15 likely to take place in isolated areas outside of the

16 main towns."

17 Would this sort of thing have come to your

18 attention?

19 A. I mean, this is an action sheet, so we would have seen

20 this.

21 Q. You would have seen it, would you?

22 A. I would imagine almost certainly, yes. I can't recall

23 this particular document, but in general terms I would

24 see action sheets.

25 Q. We can see at the bottom there, the box is ticked

 

 

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1 "Action: 3R Irish". That has been sent to you?

2 A. To my battalion; not to me personally.

3 Q. Indeed. This would have come from the RUC, would it?

4 A. I imagine -- it would probably have come from brigade

5 headquarters via the RUC.

6 Q. So they would have either called up or sent a report to

7 brigade headquarters who would then --

8 A. Yes, on a cascade principle.

9 Q. Do you recall this threat in that period of time?

10 I appreciate it is a long time ago.

11 A. Not this specific one, no.

12 Q. Can you remember at this period of time any other

13 Loyalist threats to people in the community?

14 A. No, but I think it is worth being in mind that this

15 threat was always there. This group existed and,

16 therefore, it posed a threat.

17 Q. The point you make arguably is that this is what the

18 Loyalist paramilitaries do and, therefore, this action

19 sheet isn't in fact telling you anything specific,

20 is it?

21 A. Not technically, no.

22 Q. In terms of your response, does it then not make any

23 difference as to how you deploy?

24 A. It might do because the very fact -- despite the fact we

25 have just agreed that this threat is extant on a regular

 

 

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1 basis, the very fact that an action sheet arises

2 indicates to me that something else -- there is a little

3 bit of extra piece of a jigsaw has been identified and,

4 therefore, we should be more alert than normal.

5 Q. How does that affect the conduct of your troops and

6 their deployment?

7 A. Well, we would probably advise them on their patrols to

8 be particularly vigilant for the movement of the

9 Protestant paramilitaries in our area. Not to say we

10 wouldn't be normally, but any sightings would be perhaps

11 of more interest in an area that has been covered by an

12 action sheet being issued.

13 Q. Presumably in receiving a threat like this, you may have

14 been conscious that its provenance was disguised to

15 protect its source. Was that something that you were

16 aware of, that you were getting a sanitised version of

17 the threat?

18 A. Oh, yes.

19 Q. May I look at document RNI-512-005 (displayed) now?

20 This is another threat action sheet and this time the

21 title is "Dissident Republican general threat". It is

22 dated February 1999, and it says:

23 "Dissident Republicans are still very much intent on

24 mounting some form of terrorist attack. It is believed

25 that this may take the form of a vehicle-borne

 

 

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1 improvised explosive device."

2 Or VBIED. And again, we can see that went to your

3 battalion or your brigade.

4 This is a bit more specific. What would you be

5 thinking in response to this sort of action sheet?

6 A. Well, the first thing I would say is the fact that it

7 says a VBIED, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive

8 device, indicates to me quite a large device possibly

9 concealed in the boot of a car. It would then be my

10 conclusion that that is not something that the Lurgan

11 PIRA would be able to construct themselves. It is more

12 likely, therefore, that that action sheet refers to

13 a threat emanating from further south in the, say, South

14 Armagh area, perhaps moving north to a target perhaps in

15 the Belfast, Portadown or Lurgan areas.

16 Q. We will look in a moment at the tasking over the weekend

17 of Rosemary Nelson's murder, but broadly speaking, if

18 you have your task forecasts and then you receive

19 a document like this which adds an additional level of

20 specific threat, what do you do in terms of going back

21 to the RUC and agreeing a new plan?

22 A. Well, we would review what we already had planned and

23 whether we could do something perhaps more in the

24 framework of that, or whether we could deploy some

25 additional troops in a particular area to try to

 

 

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1 interdict a threat of this specific nature.

2 Q. May I look at document RNI-512-010 (displayed)? This is

3 called a RIRAC. Could you just explain what that

4 abbreviation means, please? If you can see there, it

5 says "document type"?

6 A. I do not know.

7 Q. You can see it is dissemination level 7 and the

8 originating unit is HQNI ASC. Is that a unit that you

9 would not normally have had liaison with?

10 A. Sorry?

11 Q. The originating unit, ASC?

12 A. I think that refers to the all sources cell. I would

13 not have had a regular contact. Again, you must

14 understand the chain of command that this would have

15 come from HQNI to the brigade headquarters and then been

16 further disseminated from there.

17 Q. Would this have come down to your intelligence officer,

18 if at all?

19 A. If it came to us it would come to him.

20 Q. Let us look briefly, if we may, overleaf at the

21 substance of what it says, and you can see there it

22 says, title "Dissident Republican activity" and then

23 text. And first of all, it says:

24 "No downward dissemination ..."

25 And it then goes on to say:

 

 

24

 

1 "Dissident Republicans are currently at the advanced

2 stages of a terrorist operation. This may take the form

3 of a VBIED operation."

4 So in fact it is quite similar to the manuscript

5 report we have seen before, but this would not have come

6 to your attention specifically?

7 A. Well, given the fact it says "no downward

8 dissemination", I would imagine not.

9 Q. Would you have known what level it would stop at

10 level 7?

11 A. I don't know what level 7 refers to.

12 Q. Thank you. There was an operation called Operation

13 Improvise which took place throughout the early months

14 of 1999. May we look particularly at RNI-512-016

15 (displayed). This, we can see, is a document entitled

16 "Op O". What does that mean?

17 A. Operations Order.

18 Q. For April 1999, Operation Improvise. And the date of

19 this document is 11 February 1999. So does that mean

20 this goes up to April 1999?

21 A. No, "Op O 04/99" means it is the fourth operational

22 order produced that year.

23 Q. Thank you. If you could just explain a bit of the

24 content of this. First of all, the first section,

25 "Situation". The threat point focuses particularly on

 

 

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1 Republican dissident terrorists within Lurgan and says

2 they pose a major internal Republican threat within RUC

3 J Division.

4 How would that have been communicated to you, that

5 threat?

6 A. Well, this is something that, again, I come back to the

7 point about my G2 cell and our overall general awareness

8 of the capability of the Republican dissidents and

9 terrorists in the area. This was a known fact.

10 Q. And this document is written by your operations officer.

11 Would he have written it in consultation with the RUC or

12 is this something he was delegated to do off his own

13 bat?

14 A. This is something that I would have directed him to do

15 after my having consulted with my RUC colleagues.

16 Q. Is this a consultation that takes place in the context

17 of the divisional action committees or is this out of

18 that system?

19 A. It would probably have come up in the context of the

20 DAC, yes.

21 Q. So it would have been planned in such a meeting, the

22 weekly meeting?

23 A. I think the overall intent would have been discussed and

24 I would taken on the responsibility of putting it into

25 this shape, and the RUC would have had a similar perhaps

 

 

26

 

1 way of supporting the operation.

2 Q. And we can see the mission there in section 2 is to

3 suppress Lurgan Provisional IRA in order to deny them

4 the ability to mount operations and, where possible,

5 inflict attrition.

6 Is that your understanding then of the broad

7 intention of Operation Improvise?

8 A. Yes, that's why I wrote it.

9 Q. What does "inflict attrition" mean?

10 A. It means if the opportunity presents itself and -- to

11 arrest members of the Republican -- the terrorists that

12 we came across.

13 Q. What does Operation Improvise allow you to do?

14 A. In what sense?

15 Q. It is an operation to deny the Lurgan PIRA to mount

16 operations and inflict attrition. How do you go about

17 that?

18 A. To put this in context, on a daily basis we would

19 conduct operations in all our subdivisions in the form

20 of patrols, vehicle checkpoints, things of that nature,

21 supporting the RUC who themselves were conducting their

22 own patrols independent of us, although most of my

23 patrols were accompanied by the RUC at all times.

24 Op Improvise was a specific operation to be used

25 when we thought it appropriate, when we wanted to use --

 

 

27

 

1 Q. Sorry to stop you there. Could you slow down a little

2 bit for the stenographer's benefit, please?

3 A. We could use Op Improvise to focus in a particular area

4 for a particular length of time with perhaps a few more

5 troops than would be usual in order to achieve the

6 effect that is outlined in the mission statement.

7 Q. So it could include, for example, a surge operation?

8 A. Yes.

9 Q. How many troops would be deployed in a surge?

10 A. It could be any number; well, within reason. Normally

11 speaking, you wouldn't put any more than a rifle

12 company's-worth on the ground, so I would imagine

13 somewhere round about eight or nine teams of people,

14 probably with a company commander.

15 Q. How many people is that?

16 A. A team is four people, so you are talking round about

17 40-odd including the company command element.

18 Q. Is that the sort of largest aspect of Improvise? Was

19 there smaller deployments --

20 A. Yes, you can decide what size you want to be to achieve

21 the effect you want.

22 Q. We will come on in a moment to see that it was planned

23 for particular dates. Did you always plan it in advance

24 or was it available to be deployed at short notice?

25 A. Both, really. It was woven into the fabric of the

 

 

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1 standard patrol programme that we have already had

2 a example of, or it could be called at short notice if

3 it was required in response to a threat or an incident.

4 Q. Where it is planned in advance, who would determine the

5 frequency of it?

6 A. Really the ops officer in conjunction with his RUC

7 colleagues.

8 Q. What kind of things would inform that deployment?

9 A. A general desire to present to the public the -- the

10 security that we were providing with the RUC, so a sort

11 of reassurance aspect, shall we say; a deterrence

12 attitude, to deter any terrorists of any persuasion not

13 to undertake any mission they might be considering; and,

14 it refers to there, hopefully some form of attrition in

15 terms of being able to arrest members of the terrorists

16 if they are conducting something which is inappropriate.

17 Q. Did you consider these sorts of operations to be

18 effective?

19 A. Yes.

20 Q. Could you expand on that a little, please?

21 A. In my time in command, in two years, we didn't have a

22 single bomb in Portadown or Lurgan of a large nature,

23 and the terrorist activity was at a relatively low

24 level. So I considered it did achieve the intent.

25 Q. And you are excluding, presumably, the Rosemary Nelson

 

 

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1 device?

2 A. Yes, clearly. But I'm saying in general terms

3 I considered it achieved its aim.

4 Q. Did you have a similar operation against the Loyalist

5 paramilitaries?

6 A. Yes, I think we did. In the sort of Portadown area

7 there was a similar op. "Impression" I think it was

8 called.

9 Q. I think we have heard the name Impression.

10 A. Yes.

11 Q. Was that in pretty much the same terms as this one, to

12 deploy as necessary and inflict attrition?

13 A. Yes, as far as I recall.

14 Q. May we look at the specific task forecasts for the

15 weekend of 13 March onwards? We will start at

16 page RNI-512-036 (displayed).

17 The bit I'm concerned about is the Lurgan

18 subdivision, and we can see there, Operation Improvise

19 is listed from 0700 to 1200 hours. Could you just

20 explain first of all a few of the abbreviations? What

21 does 9TMS mean, which is next to number 44?

22 A. That means nine teams. This was a company-level

23 operation.

24 Q. It says "Operation Improvise less GRN estates ...

25 I assume that is "green" estates -- Lurgan."

 

 

30

 

1 A. Yes.

2 Q. Why would you not have gone into the green estates?

3 A. I would imagine for a couple of reasons. Probably

4 because we may have been in there the previous week or

5 two days earlier and we don't want to exacerbate local

6 tension if there is any at all. And secondly, I would

7 not consider that Operation Improvise had to focus on

8 the green estates because bear in mind that Op Improvise

9 was designed to interdict major routes, not particularly

10 specific areas. So it had quite a wide geographical

11 focus as opposed to focusing solely on one area, but it

12 could be focused if necessary.

13 Q. And the green estates in Lurgan would principally mean

14 the Kilwilke Estate, would it?

15 A. Yes.

16 Q. And just looking at a few of the others, could you just

17 describe, if you would, going down the timeline from

18 1200 hours to 23.59, what each of those things means?

19 A. Well, from left to right?

20 Q. Yes, please.

21 A. The first one is F Company, "two spotters". A spotter

22 is an individual in the company who are proving

23 themselves technically adept at identifying individuals.

24 They have a good knowledge of people's movement, the

25 identity of their vehicles, et cetera.

 

 

31

 

1 From there on, the "VCP" is local checkpoint. Four

2 teams doing that job. And I think the "TC" refers to

3 police patrolling in the town itself. And I stress

4 again that we did support the RUC; we were here to do

5 that. Therefore, they would deploy on the ground and we

6 would provide the support to them while they were

7 patrolling.

8 So that was in the afternoon. And then from the

9 evening onwards, vehicle checkpoints on the approach

10 routes. Now "Juliet Whisky" and "Juliet Lima" refer to

11 sub-areas of the subdivision, if I might call it that.

12 These are geographical areas, as far as I recall. Four

13 teams, and in this case they are conducting what are

14 called eagle VCP operations, EVCPs, which are conducted

15 by helicopter. This would indicate to me that this was

16 taking place on the outskirts, on the approaches to town

17 to interdict movement.

18 Q. This is the only Operation Improvise that we have found

19 for the period in which Rosemary Nelson -- prior to her

20 death, i.e. the weekend of the 13th, 14th, 15th. If there

21 had been another Improvise, where would we find it?

22 To explain further, if it had been necessary to have

23 an Improvise at short notice, how would the order have

24 been made and how would it have been recorded?

25 A. Well, I'm not certain that if something is done at very

 

 

32

 

1 short notice in response to an incident, we would

2 immediately annotate the patrol form accordingly. That

3 may not be something that would be done at the time in

4 the heat of the moment, and I don't recall -- it is also

5 important to bear in mind that any response to an

6 incident may not necessarily be Op Improvise. It could

7 be a completely different requirement as directed by the

8 RUC.

9 Q. To your knowledge were there any other surge operations

10 other than Operation Improvise that weekend?

11 A. Not that I recall.

12 Q. Now, if a covert operation were taking place that

13 weekend, i.e. a military operation or an operation by the

14 Security Service or by RUC Special Branch, would you, as

15 battalion commander, have been aware of that?

16 A. No.

17 Q. Would anyone in your battalion have been aware of it?

18 A. No.

19 Q. So this would have been something that could have come

20 broadly to the attention of G2, would it, who may have

21 given you an out of bounds instruction?

22 A. That would be the only indication, but out of bound

23 boxes are placed for a number of different reasons, not

24 necessarily indicating that sort of activity. All I

25 would see as a commanding officer, maybe a red square on

 

 

33

 

1 a map that had a specific time against it.

2 Q. Would anyone in your battalion have known about it?

3 A. No, no more than I.

4 Q. Not even the intelligence officer?

5 A. No.

6 Q. Rosemary Nelson was killed on 15 March 1999 and

7 afterwards a serious incident report was produced by a

8 weapons officer, I think, in your battalion. Can we

9 have a look at that, please, at RNI-512-089 (displayed)?

10 The date of this is simply March 1999 and it says:

11 "3R Irish serious incident report, UVIED, 15 March."

12 Why would such a report have been produced?

13 A. It was standard practice throughout Northern Ireland

14 that following an incident in a military tactical area

15 of responsibility, the local unit would produce

16 a serious incident report. And the aim of this was

17 to -- in my view, was to first of all have a short

18 factual account of what happened, and secondly, to allow

19 us to indulge in a little bit -- and I stress a little

20 bit -- of analysis as to what took place, principally in

21 order that we can learn any lessons we can and

22 specifically, for the future, for units in the area and,

23 indeed, for units coming into the TAOR as part of

24 a normal rotation of troops in the future.

25 There is almost like a lesson is learnt element to

 

 

34

 

1 this as well.

2 Q. If we go to page RNI-512-092 (displayed), we can see the

3 author is again a witness to this Inquiry. "W02",

4 I presume that means weapons officer?

5 A. No, warrant officer, operations warrant officer.

6 Q. Was it always a warrant officer that produced such

7 reports?

8 A. No, it could have been the operations officer, depending

9 on who was on duty at the time.

10 Q. Was this something which you would have ordered to

11 happen or was that an automatic part of their response

12 and job?

13 A. No, this is automatic. I would have probably said,

14 "When am I going to see the serious incident report on

15 this?" but they would have been working on it. It is

16 a standard practice, well understood.

17 Q. Did you yourself always choose to comment on such

18 reports?

19 A. Yes, I thought that was appropriate in all respects.

20 Q. We can see your comments from paragraph 12 onwards. If

21 we can have those highlighted, please? And the first

22 point that you make is that you say:

23 "Although ostensibly a tactical level attack, the

24 murder of Mrs Nelson is having strategic consequences,

25 and claims of security force collusion were made within

 

 

35

 

1 hours of the attack."

2 First of all, "tactical level attack": what do you

3 mean by that?

4 A. It was a very focussed, direct attack against one

5 individual, in this case Mrs Nelson, against her car.

6 So it didn't take place at a higher level. It wasn't

7 aimed at a large group of Republicans. It was an

8 individual citizen who was in this case attacked.

9 Q. And the strategic consequences were what?

10 A. Well, the claim of security force collusion, which is in

11 itself very damaging to people's perception of the

12 impartiality of the security forces.

13 Q. Now, that -- that is obviously --

14 A. This was at a particularly sensitive time in the peace

15 process as well.

16 Q. When did you become aware that there were allegations of

17 collusion?

18 A. I can't recall, but it was shortly after the incident

19 took place. And it was in the press.

20 Q. And were such allegations common after these kind of

21 attacks?

22 A. No.

23 Q. So in that sense --

24 A. But then, these sort of attacks didn't take place very

25 often.

 

 

36

 

1 Q. That's obviously, from your perspective, that the

2 strategic consequences were allegations of collusion

3 which you had to deal with. Did you feel the murder was

4 committed for a strategic reason?

5 A. No.

6 Q. Why not?

7 A. Well, because as I said to you earlier, I didn't

8 consider Mrs Nelson to be a particularly high profile

9 figure in the area. She was known, but she was never

10 brought to my attention, as a commanding officer, as

11 somebody we should be particularly interested in. She

12 was just a professional member of the public.

13 Q. The witness who gave evidence yesterday, the Regional

14 Military Intelligence Officer, expressed the view that

15 she would have been targeted because of her

16 representation of Republicans or alleged Republicans,

17 including Colin Duffy, and her status as legal adviser

18 to the GRRC.

19 Do you think that is why she was targeted?

20 A. I really can't comment. I can't -- I wouldn't want to

21 speculate.

22 Q. You go on to say in paragraph 12 that the allegations of

23 collusion highlight the need for scrupulously accurate

24 patrol honesty traces and operation log sheets,

25 et cetera. Was your reaction then that you were wary of

 

 

37

 

1 allegations being made against your own troops and you

2 wanted, as it were, to check that everything had been

3 done properly?

4 A. No, the point I was making here was that we must always

5 be careful to ensure that we do keep an accurate record

6 of our activities, so that if such allegations were to

7 be made at any stage, they could be rebutted and refuted

8 with fact.

9 But we didn't keep them for that purpose. The main

10 reason we kept traces was for our own benefit, to ensure

11 we didn't set patterns.

12 Q. This was using the PROMISES system, which is the

13 acronym?

14 A. Yes.

15 Q. So were you in effect advising for future conduct to

16 make sure that things were accurate, or were you saying

17 in fact in relation to that weekend you'd better check

18 you've got it right?

19 A. I was making the general point that we must always keep

20 our record straight for our own benefit to make sure we

21 didn't set patterns and, therefore, become vulnerable

22 ourselves. But in themselves they are useful background

23 material to ensure we can justifiably say that we were

24 not in a certain place when somebody else may claim we

25 were.

 

 

38

 

1 Q. Mrs Nelson was murdered by an under-car booby trap

2 device, and the claim of responsibility was by

3 a Loyalist grouping, the Red Hand Defenders.

4 Did you yourself form an opinion or a preliminary

5 view about, firstly, the nature of the device and its

6 sophistication?

7 A. Well, I remember being surprised that such

8 a sophisticated device was used in an area by Loyalist

9 paramilitaries because I didn't consider that the

10 Portadown grouping had that capability. They were more

11 into rather more crude pipe bombs made out of drainpipes

12 with bolts on the end. So that surprised me.

13 So, therefore, I imagine I came to the conclusion it

14 was merely carried out by a different grouping with more

15 expertise from somewhere else.

16 Q. Such as whom?

17 A. Well, a number. But there were a number around at the

18 time. I can't remember if I considered any particular

19 group that could have been responsible.

20 Q. There was a suggestion yesterday that there were

21 groupings or individuals in Belfast or Down who may have

22 had a more sophisticated bombing capability.

23 Is that something that you knew about?

24 A. I was aware of it, yes, because they had used such

25 devices in the past.

 

 

39

 

1 Q. Would you have considered there to be any connection

2 between those sorts of groups and the people in your

3 locality?

4 A. Up until this point no, I wouldn't.

5 Q. And by inference, this started you to think that there

6 may have been?

7 A. Yes, as I say, it was an odd modus operandi for the LVF

8 to use. So I imagined that they had gained some support

9 from another grouping that had the expertise. I

10 wouldn't be able to know where that came from.

11 Q. You say the LVF, but as I say, the claim of

12 responsibility was by the Red Hand Defenders. Did you

13 see those as being synonymous?

14 A. Not that I recall.

15 Q. Were you aware of the Red Hand Defenders as being used

16 as a flag of convenience for your local groups?

17 A. I don't recall that being the case.

18 Q. In your opinion was this a local attack conducted by the

19 LVF?

20 A. No, I don't think so, for the reasons I have outlined.

21 Q. Did you discuss Rosemary Nelson's murder with senior

22 officers in the RUC?

23 A. Immediately afterwards?

24 Q. Yes.

25 A. Yes.

 

 

40

 

1 Q. With whom?

2 A. As far as I recall, with the Divisional Commander.

3 Q. Without naming him, he was presumably the

4 Superintendent, was he?

5 A. Lurgan Chief Superintendent, yes.

6 Q. Thank you. And what did you discuss?

7 A. How to react, because it was a surprising attack, it was

8 a vicious attack. We hadn't seen anything of this

9 nature for some time in our area. And even at the

10 really quite early stages, as far as I recall, after the

11 incident, there was the distinct threat of serious

12 public disorder disturbances in the Lurgan area. So we

13 had to decide how we were going to support the police in

14 combating that particular issue.

15 Q. Did you do so in terms of deploying troops in order to

16 maintain order?

17 A. Yes.

18 Q. Whereabouts were the disturbances?

19 A. They were largely in the Kilwilke area.

20 Q. Did you also have any liaison with Special Branch about

21 the murder?

22 A. Not that I recall.

23 Q. Would it have been ordinary for you to have done so?

24 A. I think this was the first murder I had in my patch

25 since I took over, so I wouldn't be able to comment.

 

 

41

 

1 Q. Did you have any involvement with the murder

2 investigation which was conducted by Mr Colin Port?

3 A. The only thing I recall was him writing to me some time

4 afterwards asking me to supply him with the details of

5 a couple of soldiers who might have been in helicopters

6 flying over Lurgan in days prior to the event.

7 Q. And did you do so?

8 A. I did.

9 Q. Did you have any further involvement with him?

10 A. Not thereafter, as far as I remember.

11 Q. Do you recall being asked to give him details of the

12 patrols and troops that were on the ground over that

13 weekend because that was something he was looking at?

14 A. I don't remember me being asked that question, but it

15 may well be something that was asked of my ops officer

16 via the RUC, and I would have been very happy to supply

17 that if it had been asked.

18 Q. Were there any obstacles to the provision of information

19 to Mr Port's investigation which would spring to mind?

20 A. No, we were very keen to cooperate.

21 Q. Colonel, thank you.

22 Do you have anything else to add before I open the

23 questions to the Panel?

24 A. No.

25 THE CHAIRMAN: Colonel Loudon, thank you very much for

 

 

42

 

1 giving evidence and I hope we have been able to send you

2 away as early as possible. Thank you very much for

3 coming.

4 You may go, and we will adjourn now until Monday at

5 1 pm.

6 (11.15 am)

7 (The Inquiry adjourned until Monday, 6 October 2008

8 at 1.00 pm)

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