The family of a Derry man who died in 1969 three months after being savagely beaten in his home by the RUC have welcomed a move by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan which upheld a complaint by the family that the RUC dealt with their concerns inappropriately at the time.
While the Ombudsman said she did not believe that disciplinary action could now be taken against former RUC officers who may know the truth about the “appalling attack” by colleagues 32 years ago, she said it was highly regrettable that the then Chief Constable, Sir Arthur Young, did not deal with the family appropriately.
Sammy Devenny, 42, died three months after he, his children and others were beaten with batons and kicked by RUC men in his home on William Street in April 1969. The failure to prosecute anyone in connection with his death led to widespread protests and seriously damaged relationships between the RUC and nationalists.
Nuala O’Loan said she upheld the family’s complaint that the RUC never communicated directly to the family news about the inquiry and its investigations. She said she had agreed to examine a fresh complaint because the case was “grave and exceptional.” However, she had not carried out a new investigation of the facts; rather, she had examined an “extensive and thorough” unpublished report carried out by Metropolitan Police Officers under Detective Chief Superintendent Kenneth Drury, known as the Drury Report.
When she had asked the RUC for a copy of the report, they claimed they did not have one. Ms. O’Loan obtained one from an unspecified source. The report unveiled how Mr. Devenny, his son and two friends stood at their from door, watching riots in the street. A number of youths pushed past them, and police then forced the door open.
“The report says that officers beat Mr. Devenny about the head and kicked and batoned him in front of his younger children…It says he was left lying on the floor with blood pouting from a number of head wounds and with his dentures and spectacles broken,” Ms. O’Loan said.
The Drury Report says 16-year-old Catherine Devenny was also attacked, as she was lying on a couch recovering from surgery. She was batoned pulled off the sofa and kicked, before she lost consciousness. And 18-year-old Anne Devenny, who lay across her father in an effort to protect him, was kicked and thrown across the room. Sammy’s son, Harry, and two other men were also attacked. Sammy Devenny was treated in hospital and readmitted within days for a coronary. He died within three months.
Ms. O’Loan said the Drury Report did not say who carried out the attacks, but identified four officers who knew what had happened but were afraid of retaliation if they spoke out. However, she thought it would be impossible to discipline them after all this time.
Mr. Harry Devenny said the Report comes too late for his deceased mother, but could help the family “along the road to emotional closure.” The family also wants the RUC to publicly respond to the report. ♦