Police not responsible for Fox death

Published Wednesday, 21 November 2012
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The family of a man murdered close to a PSNI station say they believe police failings led to the death of Seamus Fox, despite a Police Ombudsman's findings that officers did not see him being beaten to death.

Police not responsible for Fox death
Seamus Fox was attacked yards from Woodbourne Police Station. (© UTV)

Mr Fox, 58, was attacked on waste ground 10 metres from west Belfast's Woodbourne Police Station in April 2010, and he died from his injuries at the scene.

The brutal beating, which lasted 26 seconds, was captured on two of the station's security cameras, but none of those inside the station knew it was happening.

Mr Fox's family told Police Ombudsman investigators they were concerned that officers had seen the attack and did not respond.

It is unbelievable that his murder unfolded immediately outside a police station where it was apparently unnoticed.

Fox family

But the Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, said no one "had the sole task" of monitoring the CCTV screens, which were two of more than a dozen in the station.

"We have established that given the position of the dozen plus monitors in the security sangar and the poor picture quality, it would not have been clear what was happening outside.

"We have also established that there was no one on duty in the sangar which overlooked the scene of the attack. It was normal practice in 2010 for that sangar not to be staffed," he said.

Last October, 19-year-old Gerard Connors - from Glenveagh Drive in Belfast - was jailed after pleading guilty to murdering the grandfather. Mr Fox's family said they believe if police had attended a fire reported a short time before the father of six's death, the fatal attack might not have happened.

"After hearing the Police Ombudsman's report and findings, our family have considered all of the information given and we now feel that negligence on the part of the Woodbourne PSNI station and officers contributed to the events that led to our father's death," a Fox family statement reads.

"It is our family's belief that had the police responded to a report of arson at woodland in the Glen River less than one hour before my father's murder, Gerard Connors, the man responsible for our father's murder would have been arrested and therefore not able to commit the murder of our father.

"It has been made clear to us that not only had they not responded to this report but that they failed to comply with basic police procedure and log it as a crime being committed."

However, Dr Maguire's report found that if police had gone to the fire, this may have reduced the opportunity for Connors to attack Mr Fox, but the chance would not have been eliminated.

The responsibility for Mr Fox's death rests with Gerard Connors, who beat him in a vicious attack. There is no evidence any police officer on duty that morning should share this responsibility.

Michael Maguire

"Had police attended the scene and arrested Gerard Connors or engaged with him for sufficient time to allow Mr Fox to reach home safely, events may have unfolded differently.

"Alternatively, however, on the approach of the police, Connors may have fled the scene, in which case he may still have encountered Mr Fox. These and other possibilities remain imponderable," added Dr Maguire.

"The police decision not to attend the fire but to use CCTV to monitor it in case matters deteriorated was an understandable course of action. They could not have foreseen that one of those people at the fire would viciously attack someone a short time later."

The Fox family have said failings on behalf of the PSNI at Woodbourne station "had a massive impact resulting in our father's death".

"Our family would like to now take this time to contemplate on the findings of the police ombudsman's report and to take professional advice on the next steps forward," they added.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
7 Comments
OldSod in Fermanagh wrote (646 days ago):
Nicola Fox, you have my honest sympathy. For what it is worth, I feel the length of sentence was shameful. Respectfully, I do think that your anger is misdirected. The police are not mind readers, don't have crystal balls and no amount of "what if's" will bring back loved ones. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I honestly can't see how anybody could have anticipated the tragedy that unfolded.
WTF in Bahamas wrote (646 days ago):
Miss Fox, I have great sympathy for you losing your father, however, what police procedures would have saved your him? I can't think of any. If you want someone to blame you need look no further that society in general. We allow thugs to roam the streets doing as they please and when caught and brought before courts a slap on the wrist is handed out.
Rob in North Down wrote (646 days ago):
What happened to Mr Fox was horrible, and no family should have to suffer like this. The fault for Mr Fox's death lies conpletely with his murderer. Irrespective of whether there were cameras or not, his murderer chose to end his life - not the police.
Nicola Fox in Belfast wrote (648 days ago):
I am Seamus Fox's daughter and I would just like to say that a comment was added here saying that we are looking for a 'scapegoat' in this case and therefore are targeting the PSNI. I would like to respond and say that, NO we are not looking for a scapegoat. My family are looking for the truth into the circumstances surrounding my fathers death. My fathers death as we believe after hearing ALL of the facts within the police ombudsmans report would have been completely preventable had the PSNI correctly followed procedure. My family are trying to ensure that this never happens again to another family's loved one as it has traumatised and devestated us completely. We hope that the truth will save another families heartbreak.
Big Jim in Fermanagh wrote (649 days ago):
Why is it that some people always have to blame the police for the evil that occurs in our society? I appreciate that whenever somebody suffers a loss, it is human nature to look at for a scapegoat, but in this case a the perpetrator was found and convicted by the police and yet they are still accused of failings. Give the police thanks for doing a good job instead of attacking them!
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