A coroner has said he is “incredulous” after bullet casings from a sectarian murder in Newtownabbey were lost.
Catholic postal worker Daniel McColgan was hit by at least 11 rounds as he went to work at the delivery office in Barna Square, Rathcoole in January 2002.
Police said the loyalist Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) were responsible.
During the inquest into Mr McColgan’s death, senior coroner John Leckey recalled how the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) senior investigator said no useful forensic evidence could be gleaned from examination of the bullet casings.
“Forensic science has advanced considerably since Daniel’s murder and we just don’t know if forensic evidence could have been obtained from the examination,” he commented.
Mr Leckey said he could make no finding on whether those who planned the murder knew a security camera which could have captured the incident was not working.
He added: “It must be a matter of great concern that exhibits in an unsolved murder should have disappeared.
“I am really incredulous that that should have happened.”
The 20-year-old father-of-one was hit multiple times in the head and body, at least once while he lay face down on the ground, the coroner said.
Nobody has been convicted of the shooting.
Mr Leckey added: “I hope very much that those responsible for Daniel’s murder will be apprehended.”
He said because of forensic evidence people could be made amenable long after the event.
“I hope very much that Daniel’s murderers will be held to account.”
The postman arrived at Rathcoole sorting office on January 12, 2002 shortly before the start of his shift at 5am.
As he walked the short distance from his car to the building two gunmen wearing scarves around their faces opened fire and he sustained multiple gunshot wounds.
Mr Leckey said he was satisfied that it was a totally sectarian act and that Mr McColgan was deliberately targeted because of his religion.
“He was a Roman Catholic in a predominantly Protestant workforce based in a predominantly loyalist area and accordingly was an easy target.”
He said a security camera at the entrance gate to the sorting office had the potential to capture at least part of the murder sequence.
“That camera had been inoperative for some time and there had been a gross failure to ensure that it functioned as intended.
“From the evidence given at the inquest I am unable to reach any conclusion, on the balance of probabilities, as to whether those who planned the murder and the gunmen were aware that the camera was inoperative.
“Also, I am unable to reach any conclusion, again on the balance of probabilities, as to whether any member or members of the workforce at the sorting office provided any information or assistance to those involved in the murder.
“However, I am satisfied that careful planning had preceded this sectarian murder which included the acquisition of knowledge at the time Daniel was due to commence work that day.”
Mr Leckey said it was not possible for him to allay all the rumours surrounding the murder.
He told the family: “There is conjecture without any evidential basis so unfortunately these rumours and suspicions may well remain in your minds.
“It just has not been possible for me, on the basis of evidence presented at the inquest, for me to reach any conclusions.”
He said Mr McColgan was a totally innocent victim of a brutal, sectarian murder.