The murder of Sergeant Joe Campbell, one the most controversial killings of the Troubles, is to be reinvestigated by the police ombudsman after new leads emerged pointing to police involvement.
Today (Sun) churches around Cushendall, Co Antrim, will read out appeals from Al Hutchinson, the ombudsman, for information on Campbell's murder. The Catholic RUC officer was killed with a single high velocity shot as the closed the gate of the village police station on February 25, 1977.
It has emerged that Campbell had told RUC Special Branch officers in Ballymena that he believed he was in danger of being killed by a colleague. This intelligence, it has now been established, was passed to Mick Slevin, the head of Special Branch in Belfast. Campbell also accused his police colleague of involvement in robberies which were then blamed on the IRA.
Three Catholic Special Branch officers in Ballymena shared Campbell's suspicions with Slevin without telling colleagues. It has since emerged that a senior officer warned a detective who was suspected of plotting against Campbell that he was mentioned in these reports.
Police SB50 forms recording the suspicions were lodged in a safe in the office of Sir Ken Newman, the then chief constable of the day, who later went on to head the London Metropolitan police. Slevin and Newman are now dead but other officers involved in handling the intelligence have been identified.
Campbell, from Donegal, left a widow and eight children. He was a popular figure in the largely Catholic village where he operated. He had contacts who reported to him on para-military and criminal activity and became suspicious that a series of Post Office and bank robberies in the area were the work of Anthony O'Doherty, a former republican para-military working as police informer, and Charles McCormick, his RUC handler.
Three years after Campbell's death, McCormick was acquitted of his murder. He was convicted of a total of 27 charges including possession of explosives and firearms and armed robbery. These were all quashed on appeal.
McCormick, who has since had a religious conversion, denies any involvement. He later sued the police for wrongful dismissal and had his police pension re-instated.
The main witness against him was O'Doherty, who said in court that he had worked for the RUC for seven years and had been trained in undercover work at an army camp. The judge, who sat without a jury, dismissed O' Doherty's evidence as unworthy of belief.