Published Thursday, 02 September 2010
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On 5 February 1992, two UFF gunmen attacked Sean Graham's bookmakers on Belfast's Ormeau Road in broad day light, killing five men, including a 15-year-old teenager.
Jack Duffin, 66; Willie McManus, 54; Christie Doherty, 52; Peter Magee, 18 and James Kennedy, 15, were shot dead in the attack.
The investigation carried out by the Historical Enquiry Team found that a Browning pistol used in the atrocity had been given back to the loyalist killer gang by the police.
The practice, which it is claimed was intended to combat terrorism, is heavily criticised in the HET latest report.
The Historical Enquiry Team calls the practice a "risky enterprise'', adding: "Such operations would have required both the authority of a senior police officer and a recovery plan, generally short-term and where possible supported by the security forces within a short period of time."
"Clearly in this case, there was a significant failure and the repercussions were tragic and devastating."
Police may have thought they had tampered with it to prevent it from being used. But the UDA subsequently used it in a number of murders, including the 1992 massacre.
"We're talking about five innocent men - a 15-year-old boy up to a 66-year-old man - who were in (Sean Graham's bookmakers) doing a bet as normal on a Wednesday afternoon and were gunned down and one of the weapons used was a Browning pistol that the RUC were involved in handing over to a loyalist death squad", Mark Sykes, who was injured in the attack, told UTV.
His 18-year-old brother, Peter Magee, was murdered by the weapon.
"The families want the truth and we want to make sure that no other families have to go through this again because the truth costs nothing. Cover-ups cost millions", Mr Sykes added.
"If the money spent on concealing the truth and preventing the truth from going out was used in actually telling the truth, we'd be in a healthier place."
No-one has ever been convicted with the Ormeau Road murders although a number of people were convicted with other offences connected to the attack.
Among other concerns raised in the HET report is the fact that a suspect referred to as Mr A should have been considered a person of interest and was described as unstable and dangerous.
The HET also says the second gun used in the murders - a rifle - was destroyed in 1994.
Sinn Féin west Belfast MLA Alex Maskey said the findings "will come as no surprise."
"The finding by the HET that the Browning pistol used by the UDA in this attack was handed back to them by the RUC will come as no surprise to the people of the Lower Ormeau area who have long known that a high degree of collusion took place in this attack."