The head of the independent commission leading the search for Northern Ireland’s disappeared has warned that police efforts to seize sensitive interviews from Boston College could impede on his organization’s work.
Officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland have attempted to obtain interviews which former paramilitaries gave to the American college.
The commission’s senior investigator Geoff Knupfer has warned that PSNI efforts to capture the tapes as evidence could disrupt attempts to find the remaining six missing victims of the troubles, referred to as the Disappeared.
Knupfer heads up efforts by the independent commission to locate the remains of people murdered and secretly buried during the Troubles.
The commission, established by the British and Irish governments in 199, has so far been successful in nine of 16 cases.
The commission relies on confidential information from those linked to the killings and fears that the latest police efforts to access private archives at Boston College will deter potential witnesses coming forward.
Knupfer has claimed that police are entitled to pursue their work but he re-iterated that information passed on to his commission cannot be used in prosecutions.
The interviews conducted by the Boston College researchers with former loyalist and republican were recorded on condition that they would not be published until those involved had passed away.
The latest police attempts to secure the interviews have prompted concerns that key witnesses will now fail to come forward.
Knupfer said: “Everything we do is dependent on information received. The legislation that covers the commission, both in the Republic and the UK and Northern Ireland, means our information cannot be used by anyone else.”