Journalist Trevor Birney has said he is experiencing "a mixture of emotions" after the PSNI announced it is to halt its investigation over confidential material aired in a documentary.

Mr Birney and fellow journalist Barry McCaffrey were arrested last August over the alleged theft of confidential documents from the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman's office.

The material appeared in their film on the 1994 Loughinisland massacre.

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The PSNI informed them that the case was being dropped and the journalists today went to a south Belfast police station and collected laptops, hard drives, mobile phones, notepads and millions of digital files held by detectives.

The reporters, who have always insisted the material on the Loughinisland killings came from an anonymous whistleblower, had been on bail since their arrest last year.

The PSNI had asked Durham Police to investigate the alleged theft.

Both organisations confirmed yesterday that the reporters were no longer under investigation - though they said the investigation into the alleged theft would continue.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Birney said he was surprised when the phone call came last night because it had appeared the police were digging their heels in and there was no sign of the PSNI ending "this farcical investigation". 

He said he was also angry and frustrated at the decision of the police to take action against himself and Mr McCaffrey, saying it "was the action of last resort".

The decision, he said, did not come following reaction or reflection on the investigation but after the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland Declan Morgan, "basically wiped the floor with the investigation during two days in the high court last week".

Mr Birney said the police had a choice to make - to go after the killers or go after the journalists - and they decided to spend the resources going after the journalists.

Trevor Birney (L) and Barry McCaffrey had been on bail since last August

In a statement today, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said: "I am grateful to Durham Constabulary and to Chief Constable Mike Barton for the work they have conducted on our behalf in this sensitive investigation.

"I have always accepted the autonomy of Chief Constable Barton's inquiry and I fully concur with his decision not to progress the investigation into the two journalists Mr Birney and Mr McCaffrey.

"Throughout the period of this investigation, the horror of what happened in Loughinisland has never been far from any of our thoughts. The perpetrators of that crime have never been brought to justice and that is a matter of huge regret for policing.

"The police investigation into who murdered the six innocent men in the Heights Bar in 1994 remains open but progress is dependent on new information.

"There are people out there who know what happened. I would appeal to them to come forward and make a statement that will help us finally bring justice to the families of the victims."

Mr Hamilton acknowledged that "the investigation over the last year has caused concern for families who have already suffered so much".

Yesterday's development came days after three senior judges in Belfast quashed warrants used by police to seize a wide range of journalistic material from early morning raids on the men's homes and their film company, Fine Point.

The 2017 documentary 'No Stone Unturned' broke new ground by naming suspects it said were involved in the UVF killings of six Catholic men gathered in a village pub watching the Republic of Ireland play a World Cup football match on television.

No-one has ever been convicted of the murders.