Published Monday, 22 October 2012
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UVF collusion tension
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A team has been appointed to explore how the police have handled paramilitary murders dating back over two decades in the Shankill Road area.
The inquiry will test out allegations that high-profile killings - including that of Bobby Moffett who was gunned down in broad daylight in 2010 - were not properly investigated, and will ask why no charges have been made and no convictions brought.
A number of families of UVF victims have welcomed the Ombudsman's intervention and it is their testimonies which have led to this move.
However there has been disagreement about the impact it will have in some communities.
Jim Wilson told UTV: "If we're going to continue to do this we're going to alienate a section of the community who will just absolutely say 'we have had enough of this'.
"This is what's happening.
"You're continually listening to the rhetoric coming from people who want to lambast the community I come from and won't give them a chance to move into a peaceful mode."
A statement from the Ombudsman last week said the fatal shootings under investigation took place in north and west Belfast between 1989 and 2010.
It is understood it will look into claims that no-one has been charged or convicted over the cases in question because informers were being protected.
The investigation bears strong similarities with another Ombudsman inquiry.
Operation Ballast, which homed in on north Belfast's Mount Vernon estate, claimed paramilitary killers were protected from prosecution because they were police agents.
While this latest inquiry is uncharted territory, and could take some time - these allegations are potentially as damaging.
Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by the UVF, has welcomed it.
"What people have to understand is that when people from the unionist community or any community go to the Police Ombudsman's office and make a complaint it has to be investigated," he told UTV.
"This isn't having a go at any paramilitary group and I'm delighted because hopefully now it'll show that there wasn't a proper investigation in a lot of the murders."
In a statement last week, police said they are involved in the "major investigation" and added that they are continuing their inquiries into the death of Mr Moffett.
"The PSNI is involved in a major investigation into criminality in north and west Belfast involving the UVF which stretches back over a considerable period of time and which is running parallel to the Police Ombudsman investigation Operation Stafford," they said.
"In addition, the police investigation into the murder of Bobby Moffett remains a live investigation into which police have invested very considerable resources and have gone to substantial length to bring charges.
"The PSNI has left no stone unturned in the Moffett investigation and it is a source of considerable frustration that - to date - we have not been able to bring charges of murder against those involved."
Police appealed for anyone who has further information on the case to come forward.