Smithwick Tribunal hears how Narrow Water bomb evidence was “interfered with”
The Smithwick Tribunal yesterday heard claims of how the forensic evidence in the Narrow Water bomb attack had been interfered with. The bomb at Narrow Water in 1979 was the single biggest loss of life for the British Army during the Northern Ireland troubles, as 18 soldiers were killed.
The ambush, known as the Warrenpoint massacre, occurred on the 27th August 1979 when the Provisional IRA’s South Armagh Brigade detonated two bombs near Narrow Water Castle. At 4:40pm a 500 pound bomb exploded when an army convoy was passing the castle, killing six soldiers. The second explosion happened at 5:12pm when an 800 pound bomb exploded at a nearby gate lodge where the army had set up a incident command point. A further 12 soldiers were killed in this explosion.
The tribunal, which is investigating the murders of two senior policemen in 1989, heard how the evidence was lost when the detonation site in County Louth was interfered with. A witness, known as Witness 69, told the tribunal how it was three days before forensic officers from Northern Ireland were allowed access to the site in County Louth where the bombs were detonated. According to Witness 69, when the officers from Northern Ireland arrived at the site, they could see signs that people had been in the area as cigarette butts and food were in the area, as well as an area of flattened land that people may have been lying down on.
Speaking about the forensic officer who accompanied him to the site, the witness said, “I know Witness 72 was quite excited, he said this looks like a good scene. He was quite certain evidence would be found.” The witness went on to say that despite an agreement with the Garda that the site would be preserved, when they returned the next day the site had been damaged substantially. “I could see ferns had been cut down. I could see very quickly the forensics team becoming very agitated. Witness 72 said ‘there’s no point us being here, the forensic scene has been destroyed.'”
The witness went on to mention Detective Sergeant Owen Corrigan, who was the Garda officer in charge of the scene at the time, “I clearly saw the forensics officer talking to this plain clothes officer, who I believe was detective sergeant Corrigan, and an arrangement was made to preserve the site until the following morning.” Legal representatives for Mr Corrigan disputed these claims, saying their client was not in charge of and had played no part in disrupting the site.
Speaking about the investigation, Mr Corrigan said that he and forensic officers had been bitterly disappointed by the disruption to the site, and that a great resentment and bewilderment had developed when they later discovered that two people leaving the site of the detonation had been arrested and released having received motoring offences.
Witness 69 went on to explain to the Tribunal how years later Detective Sergeant Corrigan’s name came up again. The witness mentioned how he was told to have no dealings with Mr Corrigan, and not to share intelligence with him. Mr Corrigan went on to deny any allegations that had been made against him.
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