Gardaí are “baffled” over the lack of progress although they cooperated with a legacy inquiry established by the British government and called Operation Kenova, the Irish Examiner has reported.
The paper reports that gardaí handed over their own file in 2018 into the murder of Oliver, who was abducted from his home on the Cooley Peninsula in Co Louth in July 1991. His body was found the next day in Belleek, Co Armagh.
Apparently, gardaí involved in the investigation believed they had assembled a strong case that would have led to arrests north and south of the border if they had access to the forensic and ballistic evidence from the scene where Oliver’s body was found over the border.
When they approached the Police Service of Northern Ireland seeking cooperation, they were told the matter was being handled by the legacy crimes investigation, Kenova.
Kenova is a wide-ranging investigation into allegations of kidnap, torture, and murder in Northern Ireland back to the 1970s, including the activities of a double agent called Stakeknife and allegations that some of the murders were committed to protect his identity.
Gardaí were reported to have cooperated with Kenova and handed over their investigation file but there has been little progress in the case since.
A source close to the investigation told the Examiner, “If they had given us the file of evidence from the scene, arrests would have been made. And having given them what we had assembled, we believe there was enough there for them to make arrests.
“It’s very disappointing, baffling even, that it doesn’t appear to have been advanced over the last four years.”
A week after the abduction of father-of-seven Oliver, the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility for his murder, saying that he was an informer, a charge his family has always denied.
The murder of the 43-year-old farmer sparked revulsion and led to public protests against the IRA. Nobody has ever been charged with his murder.
Last year, the head of Kenova, Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, was interviewed on RTÉ and stated that new evidence in the case had been uncovered. He also mentioned that there were retired gardai the investigation wished to talk to but these men were not cooperating.
The Examiner reports that these retired officers had already been interviewed by the gardaí and were peripheral to the murder investigation.
The paper’s source said, “It’s disappointing that that is where Kenova is going when there is credible stuff in there to advance the case.”
*This column first appeared in the May 18 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.