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INLA killer likely to serve only two years for murder

THE FORMER head of the Dublin INLA pleaded guilty to gunning down a British soldier -- knowing he is likely to serve just two years in jail.

Thug Declan 'Whacker' Duffy was only a teenager when he was part of a three-man hit squad that shot Sergeant Michael Newman at point-blank range in 1992.

A judge described the killing of the father-of-one as a "heinous crime" and sentenced Duffy to 24 years in jail yesterday.

But Duffy (36) may only serve a few months for the crime as a result of the Good Friday Agreement. A former associate of his who drove the getaway car in the incident was granted early release under the Agreement.

Duffy is said to have been the Dublin commander of the INLA, which is thought to have been responsible for 111 murders since its formation in 1975.

In recent years, he has disowned his links with the now disbanded group, and is said to have received death threats.

Duffy first came to public attention here in 1999 when he led a group which kidnapped and tortured six members of a rival criminal gang in what was to become known as the Ballymount Bloodbath.

One managed to use his mobile phone to call for back-up. In the ensuing brawl, INLA man Patrick Campbell was killed with a machete.

Duffy was sentenced to nine years for his role but after leaving jail in 2007 turned his focus to drug-dealing and gun-running, moving to Dublin's south inner city. He then engaged in an 18-month tit-for-tat feud with a local drug gang, before he was arrested. He is serving a four-year sentence at Portlaoise Prison for membership of the INLA.

Duffy (36) was brought from Northern Ireland to Stafford Crown Court in England yesterday, where he pleaded guilty to the 18-year-old attack.

The court heard he was a cold-blooded killer who selected a "soft target" in the form of Sgt Newman.

The officer's wife Dawn and daughter Danielle -- who was eight when her father was killed -- sat in court as Duffy was sentenced.

The court had heard how Duffy travelled to Derby in 1992 with fellow INLA members Joe 'Mad Dog' Magee and Anthony 'Fanta' Gorman.

The trio bought a Ford Granada and new clothes before staking out the Army recruitment office where Sgt Newman worked.

The sergeant was walking to his car when he was shot in the head at point-blank range. He was unarmed and was not wearing his uniform at the time.

It is still not known who pulled the trigger.

In 2004, Magee (42) was jailed for 25 years after admitting driving the getaway car.

He was released just months later under the Good Friday Agreement and it is now thought that Duffy will qualify under the same arrangement.

Gorman is fighting extradition from Ireland to England.

In court yesterday, Justice Macur said that Duffy had caused "horror, panic, anger and anxiety, not merely for his family and his friends but also for the public".

"There was an atmosphere of fear created which was the intention of the act, quite apart from the killing of Michael Newman," she said.

Independent sentence review commissioners in Northern Ireland are now expected to consider Duffy's case for a conditional early release within two years.

He qualifies for the scheme as a one-time member of a parliamentary group that is no longer involved in violence.