The PSNI has apologised for failings in the investigation into the murder of a GAA official in Co Derry by loyalist paramilitaries in 1997.

Sean Brown, a 61-year-old father of six, was beaten and abducted as he locked the gates of Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC on 12 May 1997.

He was forced into the boot of his car and taken to a remote country lane outside Randalstown in Co Antrim, where he was shot six times.

No-one has ever been charged with his murder, which was carried out by the Loyalist Volunteer Force, a breakaway faction of the UVF.

His family believe informers working for RUC Special Branch were involved in the killing and that the investigation was deliberately hindered.

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Mr Brown's widow Bridie, 84, took legal action against the police for alleged misfeasance in public office and negligence.

In the High Court in Belfast today, it took less than five minutes for the legal action to be settled.

A statement from the PSNI agreed with Mr Brown's family describing the victim as a "devoted family man and a pillar of the Bellaghy community".

The statement said: "The PSNI wishes to apologise to Mrs Brown and her family for inadequacies in the RUC original investigation and continues to engage fully in the ongoing inquest proceedings."

Undisclosed damages have also been paid to Mrs Brown as part of the settlement.

Outside court, one of the victim's grandsons, Damon Brown, said the family hope an inquest will help establish the truth of what happened.

"It's been terrible, it's just been a long struggle this 25 years," he said.

"Although today's important, there should have been a proper investigation 25 years ago."

Sean Brown's widow Bridie, grandson Damon Brown, (L) and solicitor Niall Murphy

A quarter of a century on, there is now virtually no chance of anyone ever being held to account for the murder.

"The best opportunity to secure and preserve evidence is in the moment, is in the immediacy of the aftermath," said the family's solicitor Niall Murphy.

"The opportunities were lost, investigative tools were not exhausted, the family were told lies for years."

Hundreds of people gathered in Bellaghy tonight as GAA President Larry McCarthy planted a tree in memory of Mr Brown.