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Amnesty for killers would take away families’ hope says widow

By Scott Jamison

The widow of a South Belfast man murdered by the UFF has said an amnesty for Troubles killers would “take away that bit of hope” she has that her late husband’s killers will be brought to justice.

Catherine Gormley, whose husband Charles McGrillen was shot dead by the UFF at the Dunnes Store in Annadale Embankment where he worked on March 15, 1988, was speaking after the outgoing Police Ombudsman advocated a “victim-led” amnesty that would see those behind Troubles deaths given a pardon over killings.

Al Hutchinson, who left his office at the end of January but who will not formally resign until a successor is in place, said it was impossible to investigate all murders carried out during the period. He said the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), which was established in January 2006 to investigate 3,269 murders attributed to the Troubles between 1968 and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, was facing “an impossible task” trying to look at all them.

But Catherine, who was living in Hatfield Street in the Lower Ormeau with her late husband when he was gunned down, said she disagreed with the view and still held out hope Charles’ killers would pay for their crime.

“I don’t see how anyone should be pardoned for murder. An amnesty is going a step too far in my eyes,” she said. “I know I have criticised the HET in the past over their lack of investigations into Charlie’s death but something is better than nothing. I don’t want compensation or anything like that, just to know what happened to him.

“I understand how many unsolved murders there are and I can also see how impossible it must seem to expect justice for everyone but at least don’t do this. It would take away that bit of hope I hold that justice will come to those that took Charlie’s life and the lives of others.”

Mr Hutchinson said an amnesty to deal with the past would be “conditional” on victims, who would make decisions on individual cases.

“We’ve had amnesty by many other names, when you look at the two-year release of prisoners in the peace agreement, you look at the inquiries that are ongoing. So it’s not as if it’s a new concept either locally or internationally.

“I take the pragmatic approach; it simply would be impossible probably to investigate to a criminal standard all murders. I think the key is to focus on the victims’ and society’s needs, as opposed to a legal process that enriches people and re-victimising people.”

To date, the HET has investigated over 800 cases but there has also been constant concerns about the volume of cases it has to examine and the funding available for the body.




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