Monday 19 August 2019

Supergrass to be used as witness in prosecution of man over 1994 murder of two Catholic workmen

Gary Haggarty. Photo: Sunday World
Gary Haggarty. Photo: Sunday World
Director for Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland Barra McGrory

Michael McHugh

One man is to be prosecuted using evidence from a loyalist paramilitary-turned-supergrass informer over the Troubles murder of two Catholic workmen in Northern Ireland.

He is expected to be charged early in the new year in connection with the 1994 killings. Under the Good Friday Agreement, if convicted he will be eligible for release from prison within two years.

Eamon Fox, 44, and Gary Convie, 24, were shot dead by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in North Queen Street in Belfast as they ate lunch in their vehicle.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Barra McGrory QC said the testimony of loyalist informer Gary Haggarty as well as independent eyewitness and forensic evidence would be used.

He said: "I am satisfied that there is independent evidence which is capable of supporting his identification of the suspect."

The suspect is understood to have been previously charged with the murders of Mr Fox and Mr Convie but his case was not proceeded with pending resolution of Haggarty's prosecution.

Director for Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland Barra McGrory
Director for Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland Barra McGrory

As well as the murders he will be accused of the attempted murder of an individual known as witness A, possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life, and membership of the UVF.

The DPP said: "I have concluded that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction and that the test for prosecution is met.

"I confirm that we intend to use assisting offender Gary Haggarty as a witness in this prosecution."

Haggarty, 45, pleaded guilty in the summer to 202 terror offences, including five murders.

He is due to be sentenced and was expected to walk free, having already served three years in custody on remand - the equivalent of a six-year sentence - under the controversial assisting offender legislation.

A contentious state deal offered him a significantly reduced prison term in exchange for his evidence against other loyalist paramilitaries.

This new charge in relation to the Fox and Convie killings would be first time his evidence has been used against another person.

Haggarty's case is due to return to court on Wednesday, when legal submissions will be made.

Mr McGrory said another two suspects reported in relation to the murder of John Harbinson in 1997 using Haggarty's evidence would not be prosecuted because the test of a reasonable prospect of conviction had not been met.

He added: "I have spoken before about the complex task of assessing the credibility of an assisting offender.

"In relation to Gary Haggarty, given all the relevant circumstances including his admitted criminality, I consider that his evidence alone is insufficient to prove an allegation beyond a reasonable doubt.

"The evidence currently available to us does not provide the necessary support for Haggarty's identification of the reported suspects as those involved in the abduction and murder of Mr Harbinson."

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