After a loyalist paedophile, thought to have links to the Ulster Drugs Association (UDA), made online threats to rape her baby the Sunday World journalist reported the incident to the PSNI.
It did not require the Police Ombudsman to describe the threat as repulsive in order to convince anybody. Most, with the seeming exception of the PSNI, were aware just how vile and sinister it was.
The ombudsman also said it was "concerning that police failed to take measures to arrest the suspect at the earliest opportunity".
Less diplomatically, the PSNI simply did not give one flying fuck that a journalist at the coal face of investigating the most dangerous of thugs, was subject to this type of intimidation / harassment or that her child was threatened.
You're going to the people who are there to protect you and carry out appropriate investigations … I've had sleepless nights, I've had nightmares that no mother should ever have, I felt isolated, I felt hopeless and I felt that no one's been listening to me.
Ms. Devlin's solicitor, Kevin Winters, described the PSNI handling of the matter as one of selective incompetence. If only we could be so certain that incompetence explains it. There has to be in the mix the possibility that the paedophile was working for one of the police services, in the North or across the water, providing information on his fellow gangsters. Keeping him in place rather than protecting mothers and babies from him might have been a priority of the policing agencies.
Last year Patricia Devlin spoke to TPQ about the harrowing experience. She raised the very real possibility that something other than incompetence might have been a factor.
TPQ: It has been a rough time for you. UDA gangsters have been putting you through the mill with death threats because of your reporting. It is bad enough that a journalist is threatened for doing their job but when the threats extend to undertaking to rape your baby that causes a shudder. While most likely a paedophile within the UDA using the hate that has been orchestrated against you as an opportunity to advance his own fantasies, it is no less sinister for that. I have been around the block in terms of threats and loyalist death attempts, and I find it chilling. While I guess many would see me as good value for it given my own past involvement in the IRA, you are a mother of three children, a journalist doing your job. You are not a member of some rival drug cartel to the UDA, out to steal their profit and muscle in on their turf. What has it been like for you to be hurled into the eye of the storm?
PD: Not a parent on this planet could honestly say they wouldn’t find a rape threat to their child traumatising. The moment I opened up the message, which was sent to my private Facebook account, I felt physically sick. That sickness did not leave for many, many months, and to be honest, it’s still there to some extent. I find it very hard to comprehend how anyone could allow those thoughts to enter their mind, let alone sit down and type them out.
This person actually looked at a picture of me holding my little boy - a newborn - in my arms on my profile before hitting send. That thought still chills me. My grandmother was also mentioned in the message along with what they thought was the location of where she lived. It was signed off ‘Combat 18’, a neo-Nazi terror group with past links to loyalists paramilitaries here. It was a short message but every single word was carefully selected to terrorise and intimidate me and my family. This was someone who was extremely twisted and quite obviously dangerous.
The only chink of light out of it was, the message was sent over social media, where you are never truly anonymous.
As soon as I received it, I contacted the PSNI, with the belief this individual would be tracked down and arrested as a matter of urgency.
They were traced, I know the individual who sent me the message, as the police told me.
But today, 17 months on, he has not even been questioned let alone arrested.
TPQ: Appalling stuff, nothing short of the fiendish outworking of a perverse hatred. One of the more worrying aspects of it is that we instinctively sense that the type of person who could write that is also the type who could follow through on it. That he is still free to pose that threat to you and your child defies common sense. It smells of a protected species working for one of the state agencies. Why else is a vile creature like that not in jail? This is akin to what Mexican drug cartels get up to – they deliberately target those you love to instill terror. Here we have your baby and your grandmother introduced into the strategy of threat, yet nothing from the PSNI. Despite Simon Byrne waxing concern during the week journalist safety is not high on the list of his force’s priorities. Given its unrelenting pursuit of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, we have to assume that the PSNI regard journalists as the threat.
PD: One of the questions that must be asked of the PSNI is, does this individual have some sort of protection from arrest and prosecution? That is a fair enough question to ask considering the evidence against him and the failure by police to adequately pursue him for questioning. He is someone suspected of previously being involved in paramilitary violence and has been questioned by police at least once on a murder carried out by a loyalist gang. He has a serious criminal record and has not only been on the PSNI’s radar for quite a while, but that of other police forces.
Three months following my complaint to police, he left Northern Ireland and moved to Scotland.
He remained there until late 2020, which was over a year after I made the formal statement to police.
The week I went public on my decision to file a Police Ombudsman complaint on what I believed to be failings in the PSN’s investigation, he disappeared. From my own sources, which I have had to resort to relying on throughout this process instead of the police, I am now aware he is living in mainland Europe. Realistically, I have to come to terms with the fact he may never be questioned or arrested over the threat to rape my son. That is terrifying, not just for me and my family, but for anyone else who crosses his path.
⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.