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Damning report on Rosemary Nelson murder

The family of murdered County Armagh lawyer, Rosemary Nelson, have said that a public inquiry had vindicated her belief that elements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary were unable to identify her as a professional lawyer and distinguish her from the alleged crimes and causes of her clients.

Nelson was murdered by a car bomb planted by loyalists at her home in Lurgan in March, 1999.

As a lawyer she represented several high profile clients including prominent republicans and the Garvaghy Road Residents' Association, the members of which were campaigning against the Orange Order parading through their area.

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For several years after the attack, Nelson's family campaigned for an inquiry, amid allegations that members of the RUC had threatened her prior to her murder. On Monday, the report into that inquiry was published.

The inquiry report detailed how RUC members had "legitimized her (Nelson) as a target" by publicly abusing and assaulting her in Portadown two years before her death.

It added that officers within Special Branch and at RUC headquarters regarded Nelson as an active supporter of the IRA.

It also said that "in assessing whether or not Rosemary Nelson's life was at risk, RUC Special Branch failed to take into account all the intelligence and the open information available to them."

The inquiry said that it could not rule out the possibility that rogue members of the security forces had been involved in the bomb attack.

However, the report said there was no direct collusion between state agencies and loyalists.

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Shaun Woodward, told the House of Commons that the report was "disturbing" and had raised serious issues about the police and Northern Ireland Office.

"This makes uncomfortable reading for both agencies," Mr. Woodward said.

"Her death was not inevitable, the reduction in risk to her was not reasonable and there were failings in efforts to reduce the threat."

Mrs. Nelson's brother, Eunan Magee, told a press conference that British Secretary of State Owen Paterson had "seen fit to gloss over" the findings in the House of Commons and urged people to read the whole report.

"The inescapable fact is that Rosemary's life was threatened and the response from the authorities was wholly inadequate and inefficient," he added.

In September 1998, six months before she was killed, Nelson traveled to Washington and outlined her concerns while giving evidence to a congressional committee hearing on international human rights.

In her testimony, she said she had begun to experience difficulties with the RUC while representing "clients detained for politically motivated offences."

Two years after her murder, in November 2001, the Royal Ulster Constabulary was replaced by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, this after recommendations contained in the Patten Report.