Nelson was killed by a loyalist car bomb on March 15, 1999. after a number of death threats were passed on by members of the RUC. No-one has been charged or convicted of the murder although a former British soldier and a police informer are among the suspects.
The dead woman’s family are demanding a full public inquiry into alleged collusion in the murder and the police response to threats made against her by loyalists, and from within their own ranks, in the two years before she died.
Her case is one of six now being examined by retired Canadian judge, Peter Cory, to assess whether a public inquiry is justified. Another case is that of slain Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, whose legacy of work for human rights inspired Nelson in her own work.
On the eve of Nelson’s anniversary the ombudsman’s report revealed that 55 solicitors and barristers have been victims of intimidation, harassment and threats from RUC/PSNI officers in 2001 and 2002.
The ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, said that although it was a tiny minority of lawyers in the North, it was a matter of concern and she hoped the existence of her office and the new code of ethics for police officers would put an end to it.
It’s understood that both the chief suspects in the Nelson killing are serving jail terms for loyalist paramilitary activity unrelated to the case. The ex-soldier is understood to have been found in possession of information likely to be of use to terrorists and of far right, Nazi-style propaganda.
Nelson rose to prominence because of her work in several high-profile cases. She campaigned for the overturn of a murder conviction against Lurgan republican Colin Duffy. And she acted for the Garvaghy Road residents in their battle with the Orange Order.
She also acted for the family of murdered Portadown Catholic Robert Hamill, allegedly kicked to death within yards of a police patrol.
She also had a wide caseload of ordinary cases and acted for Protestant clients as well as Catholic. She was active in campaigns for women’s rights and the welfare of traveler families in her native Lurgan.
The long-running investigation into Nelson’s murder has pin-pointed eight to ten suspects in a murder hunt in which English detectives have traveled to Africa, Europe and the U.S. in search of information.
Although the investigation has cost in excess of