THE family of Lenadoon man Seamus Fox say it is “unbelievable” that his murder unfolded outside a police station after a report by the Police Ombudsman found that officers on duty did not see the attack take place.
58-year-old Mr Fox, a popular and well-known father-of-eight, was walking home after a night out supporting his local darts team in the Donegal Celtic when he was attacked and savagely beaten to death outside Woodbourne police station in April 2010.
In his report, Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire found that although footage of the killing was relayed onto monitors in a security sangar, no officer saw it at the time.
“There were two security cameras relaying pictures of the attack on Mr Fox as it happened onto two of more than a dozen screens in a security sangar. No-one has the sole task of monitoring those screens,” he said.
“We have established that, given the position of the dozen-plus monitors in the security sangar and the poor picture quality, it would not have been clear what was happening outside.
“We have also established that there was no-one on duty in the sangar which overlooked the scene of the attack. It was normal practice in 2010 for that sangar not to be staffed.”
The Ombudsman also pointed out that an ‘out of bounds’ order in place at the scene that night meant that officers could not respond.
In October 2011, 19-year-old Gerard Connors from Glenveagh Drive was sentenced to life and ordered to serve a minimum of 13 years for Seamus Fox’s murder. His tariff was later reduced to 12 years.
In a statement released through their solicitor, the Fox family said they had considered all of the information given and said they felt that “negligence on the part of the Woodbourne PSNI station and officers contributed to the events that led to their father’s death.” They went on: “It is our family’s belief that had the police responded to a report of arson at woodland Glen River less than one hour before our father’s murder, Gerard Connors, the man responsible for our father’s murder, would have been arrested and would not have been able to commit the murder of our father.
“It has been made clear to us that not only had they not responded to this report but they failed to comply with basic police procedure and log it as crime being committed.
“It is our family’s belief that it is hugely unlikely that our father’s murder was missed being seen on the surveillance cameras by two member of the PSNI staff – one being a police officer and the other a civilian guard – especially when explanations given to us that the report of the arson was not acted upon for one reason, that the officers were directed to watch the surveillance cameras and keep an eye on the situation as it unfolded.
“It is dumbfounding that if these officers were watching these cameras then how did they miss our father’s murder, which was seen and recorded on their CCTV?
“Our father was out that evening supporting his local dart team and had as much right as anyone to be able to walk home safely without fear for his life.
“Anti-social behaviour in this area has been rife for years and it is our belief that failings on behalf of Woodbourne PSNI had a massive impact resulting in his death. Our family will now take time to contemplate the findings of the Police Ombudsman’s report and to take professional advice on the next steps forward.”
Speaking to the Andersonstown News, local Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey said that the attack on Seamus Fox was preventable and that in not acting the PSNI have let the family of Mr Fox and the wider community down.
“The Ombudsman’s report into the death of Seamus Fox outside Woodbourne PSNI station highlights the points that the local community have been aware of all the time. Quite simply, the PSNI were not willing to act upon the anti-social behaviour outside one of their stations nor were they aware in the case of the killing of a local man of what was happening on their own doorstep.
“While the blame lies squarely with Gerard Connors for the vicious attack on Mr Fox, this attack was preventable. Despite the assertion in the report that had the PSNI intervened in the anti-social behaviour Gerard Connors may still have carried out this attack, I believe this to be highly unlikely. In their failure to act the PSNI have tragically let down Mr Fox, his family and the wider community. In doing so there are questions that remain to be answered by the PSNI as to what action they are to take in relation to this matter and those who failed in their duty towards this community.”
SDLP Councillor Tim Attwood said the PONI investigation into the murder was “cold comfort” to the Fox family.
“The brutal murder of Seamus Fox traumatised the Fox family and stunned the wider community in West Belfast,” he said. “Given that the murder took place at the back of Woodbourne PSNI station which has dozens of security cameras, it was essential that the Police Ombudsmen conducted a detailed independent investigation.
“Although the report states that no PSNI officer saw or was aware of the attack on Mr Fox, this will be of cold comfort to the family given that there were two cameras which relayed the attack but no officer was monitoring these screens. It does beg the question, why have dozens of security cameras which are not being monitored?
“It is essential that the PSNI ensures that every person has the freedom to walk safely through the streets of West Belfast without fear of being attacked. It is even more important PSNI are seen to respond quickly to attacks or incidents in the proximity of a PSNI station. It is vital that the PSNI have the resources so that more PSNI officers are deployed on the beat to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour.”