Published Friday, 18 May 2012
Police have apologised over the matter. (© Pacemaker)
Tony Butler, 40, was shot dead by loyalist gunmen in south Belfast in 1993.
His relatives were informed on Thursday that a piece of his skull had been kept, after officers admitted to keeping body parts from 64 crime victims in Northern Ireland.
Mr Butler's partner, Maureen Jamison, said she has considered her options and has now decided to initiate legal proceedings against the PSNI.
"I am in total shock and very angry," said Ms Jamison.
It's as if it is happening all over again. This has brought all the pain back.
"I have been receiving counselling for years and have only just recently come to terms with losing Tony 19 years ago.
"The Police banged on the door yesterday and told me that they were here regarding my late partner.
"I thought that the police were coming out to tell me that they caught the people who murdered Tony. They left me with a decision whether to bury Tony's skull or incinerate it."
Mr Butler was shot in the head after answering the door to two loyalist gunmen in south Belfast in January 1993. No one has ever been charged with his murder.
Earlier this week it emerged that police had kept human tissue as evidence from 1960 to 2005, following an audit of forces across the UK.
About a third of the cases in NI concerned Troubles-related deaths.
The PSNI apologised to families but said there was no mechanism in place to review what it had until relatively recently.
It was then revealed that The Police Ombudsman's Office also held onto some human remains, following investigations into the violent deaths of four people.
Paul Girvan, the DUP Chair of the Justice Committee, said an independent inquiry into the retention of body parts may be necessary.
Police have been working to pass information on to those families concerned.
However, in a statement on Friday, the solicitor representing the Butler family said they do not accept the police's reason for not telling them about the skull sooner.
"We do not accept the explanation given by Police for not informing the family about the retained body part," said Patrick Madden solicitor.
"There must be an immediate and transparent inquiry into why relatives were not informed and why they have waited until now to come clean.
"For whatever reason, they have decided not to make relatives aware until now and this has caused extreme distress to our clients. This is totally unacceptable."
Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton, who has been charged with dealing with the issue of body part retention, said the PSNI "respects" the family's rights to make the move.
"The police service respects the right of any family to take this action," he said.
"In terms of interaction with families affected by the human tissue review, police have ensured that highly trained family liaison officers have met personally with families.
"It has always been the priority of police to put families and their needs first in what is a very distressing time."