The Police Chief Superintendent in Derry has referred the Sean Dolan's GAA club fire case to the Police Ombudsman for an independent examination of police actions.
District Commander Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin made the decision following a review of the initial investigation into the GAA clubhouse on December 28th. Extensive damage was caused to the club on Bligh's Lane during the blaze which caused the roof to collapse.
Police initially determined the cause of the fire to be accidental. They did a u-turn on that decision after viewing CCTV footage from the scene was produced by Sinn Fein and club members figures outside the building before the fire started. The Police then publicty stated that the fire at Sean Dolans GAC was arson.
At the time a spokesperson said: "The initial cause of the fire was determined as not suspicious," said a spokesperson. "However, it is now being treated as arson and a senior officer will review every action taken by police from the first call received about the fire, evidence taken, CCTV footage viewed and lines of inquiry followed up by the investigating officers.
Newswire has seen the CCTV footage which clearly shows figures present before the fire takes hold. On the footage the figures are seen through a window which leads to the outside back entrances to the club. They emerged just minutes after the last of the club staff locked up and went home. The footage shows flames being lit outside the building and figures running away. Other CCTV footage shows how the fire spread throughout the club.
Sinn Féin Spokesperson, Raymond McCartney MLA, welcomed the news of the referral.
Mr McCartney said: "A Sinn Féin delegation met today with the PSNI in Derry to review progress on the investigation into the mishandling of the original investigation of the fire which extensively damaged the Sean Dolan’s GAC Clubhouse.
“I welcome the statement issued by the PSNI following that meeting today in which they have said that the issue is now being referred to the Policeman Ombudsman for full investigation of all the circumstances concerning this incident.
“I would encourage anyone with any information or concerns about events before or after the fire – including the original investigation - to come forward and cooperate with the Ombudsman’s investigation. It is imperative that all of the facts about this fire are uncovered in order that we can demonstrate to the community that we not only have accountable policing but competent policing also."