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Sammy Devenny: The report of Kenneth Drury and the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
8 Jul 2019
On April 20, 2001 just after the 32
nd anniversary of the RUC assault on Sammy Devenny members of his family met with the then Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Nuala O’Loan. The Devenny’s solicitor made a complaint against the RUC on behalf of the family. Part of the complaint centred on the fact that the family never received the report made after the investigation into the incident in April of 1969. Two Metropolitan Police officer’s, Kenneth Drury and Churchill Coleman were despatched to investigate the incident almost a year after it happened and arrived in Derry on April 6, 1970. The lead officer in the investigation was Detective Chief Superintendent Kenneth Drury who promptly set up his headquarters in an upstairs room of Con Bradley’s pub in William Street. Following the completion of his investigation, Drury brought 12 copies of it to the Chief Constable of the RUC, Sir Arthur Young on October 21, 1970. Copies were also delivered to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Major James Chichester Clark and the Attorney General of Northern Ireland, Basil Kelly Q.C. MP. The Devenny family were not given any access to the report and were never told of its contents other than the snippets released to the press over the years. So, the complaint to the Ombudsman included the fact that the Devenny family were never informed of the outcome of the report and never actually received any official acknowledgement that the RUC were actually in their home on April 19, 1969. As a result, neither have the family received any indication whether the events on the day are believed to have contributed their father’s death. On November 4, 1970 Major Chichester Clark sent out a press release noting that “some members of the RUC are aware of who the culprits are, but perhaps through a misguided sense of loyalty, are unwilling to co-operate with the authorities to establish the truth.” For his part, Chief Constable Sir Arthur Young in a statement spoke of a “conspiracy of silence motivated by a misconceived and improper sense of loyalty to their guilty comrades.” To this day, no police officer has ever been made amenable in respect of any aspect of the Devenny case. On June 12, 2001 the Police Ombudsman requested a copy of the Drury Report from the RUC. But, just ten days later they were told that the RUC didn’t hold a copy of it. Further inquiries by the Ombudsman succeeded in a copy of the report being made available by the Metropolitan Police in July 2001. Despite the fact that the Devenny family made a complaint to the RUC about the attack on them on April 22, 1969 in Derry, the RUC later confirmed they held no record of the complaint ever being made. The Police Ombudsman upheld the Devenny family complaint that no communication was ever made by the RUC at any level to Mrs Devenny or any member of the Devenny family. What did emerge from Kenneth Drury’s report firstly was a description of the Devenny family which said: “The Devenny family…were at the time of the incident and, for that matter, still are. God fearing, law-abiding citizens, all of which were born and bred in the Bogside area of Londonderry.” What is also known is that Kenneth Drury appeared unable to establish who carried out the attacks at the Devenny household 50 years ago. Drury concluded that “some of the officers who entered 69, William Street at the time and date specified were responsible for the assaults on Sammy Devenny and other aggrieved persons. These officers cannot be identified.” The report added: “Whilst it is appreciated that officers of the Force on duty in the riot area on the day in question were under extreme provocation, being constantly attacked and sorely tried, there is no evidence that their action against members of the Devenny family and others in the house could be justified in any way and this code of conduct can never be condoned in any force responsible for the preservation of law and order.” Drury continued: “Constable A is fully aware of what took place at the Devenny home and there is every indication that Constables B, C and D know what took place at the Devenny home.” There was an amnesty in place in respect of all criminal offences committed at this time in Northern Ireland. It had been announced by the Prime Minister for Northern Ireland on May 6, 1969, therefore there could be no prosecution of any police officer in respect of what happened at the Devenny’s home. However, Drury concluded that this “would not preclude any disciplinary action being taken against the officers for offences such as failing to report a matter it was his duty to report-making a false statement and the like.” Drury also criticised the RUC internal investigation and concluded that little or no forensic work was carried out, there was no forensic examination of the Land Rovers, none of the uniforms were examined and no fingerprinting was carried out at the Devenny’s house. Neither was there any testing of the .38 bullets found at the Devenney home after the assault and therefore it was impossible to conclude that they’d been left behind by the RUC. No forensic tests were carried out on any clothing at the home and no samples were taken from Sammy Devenny at the time. As for identity parades, Drury maintained that he offered members of the Devenny family the chance to avail of them, including line-up’s that would have had two senior officers identified by him in them. But, the offer had been declined because the family felt they would be unable to identify them a year after the event. Finally, Drury wrote that whether the assault on Sammy Devenny contributed to his death was ‘purely speculative.’ The Police Ombudsman’s report of September 2001 concluded that Drury’s investigation was thorough in contrast to the internal investigation carried out by the RUC at the time. However, Nuala O’Loan was also of the opinion in her findings, written over 30 years after the attack on the Devenny’s that it would not be possible to bring disciplinary action because officers had left the RUC and would no longer be subject to disciplinary action. Nuala O’Loan also acknowledged that whilst it was impossible to re-examine the medical aspect of the case, she noted that the Devenny family would understandably continue to hold the view that there was an indisputable link between the events in their home in April 1969, the deterioration of their father’s health four days after the attack and his death on July 17, 1969. CAPTION: Sammy Devenny and his wife Phyllis.
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