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27 November 2017 Edition

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Sinister RUC Special Branch relationship with UVF kept hidden

RUC and UVF members escape prosecution in Mount Vernon murder case

• UVF killer and police informer Gary Haggarty

A plea bargain meant exact role of RUC Special Branch would not be exposed in open court

THE DECISION by the North’s Director of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute two former Royal Ulster Constabulary officers and 11 Ulster Volunteer Force suspects accused of involvement in a series of murders and other serious offences on the word of UVF killer Gary Haggarty has caused anger and dismay amongst relatives of those killed and injured.

The Haggarty case has parallels with that of Brian Nelson, the British Army agent who acted as the Ulster Defence Association’s intelligence chief targeting Catholics for sectarian killings, nationalists and republicans.

British Military Intelligence was pulling Nelson’s strings but it was the RUC Special Branch who controlled Haggarty. Both state agents literally ‘got away with murder’ with paltry sentences and early releases because of their service to the crown.

Plea bargains ensured that detailed evidence of the exact role and dealings of British Military Intelligence commanders or RUC Special Branch chiefs would not be exposed in open court.

Haggarty pleaded guilty in June to 202 UVF-related offences, including five killings and five attempted killings. Despite this, there is speculation he could be released in the coming weeks.

The revelation in October that charges would not be pursued against the former RUC police officers and the UVF members provoked understandable anger amongst families who have suffered at the hands of Haggarty’s infamous Mount Vernon UVF gang in north Belfast.

Much of their rage was centred on the DPP’s rationale not to prosecute the loyalists or the ex-RUC members on the questionable grounds that one of Haggarty’s Special Branch handlers “provided a sick line that he was off for four months” and therefore “the very serious allegations against one officer” could not be corroborated as he was “on long-term sick leave”. This officer nevertheless maintained contact with Haggarty despite being “on the sick”.

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KRW Law, which is representing some of the families, said the DPP was in effect viewing this Special Branch officer’s sick line as providing an “absolute” alibi against Haggarty’s allegations that the two officers passed the details of a north Belfast man to Gary Haggarty on the understanding that he would be targeted by the UVF.

The DPP also cited Haggarty’s “lack of credibility” as another reason for proceeding with the case before bizarrely saying there was no “independent supporting evidence”.

In other words, the fact that these two seasoned Special Branch officers failed to keep a record of their dealings with the UVF agent meant that there was no corroborating evidence.

Reacting to this curious logic, KRW Law said it was “preposterous” and amounted to asking a criminal to keep records of his criminality.

The law firm stressed the seriousness of this failure to keep records as a breach of undertakings by the PSNI to record information and monitor intelligence in the aftermath of the Operation Ballast report produced in 2007 by the then Police Ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan.

Operation Ballast, which investigated the activities of the UVF in Mount Vernon, exposed the links between Special Branch and their agent Mark Haddock was scathing of the RUC/PSNI and their “contempt for the law” due to their systemic negligence regarding keeping records.

In a statement, KRW Law said:

“Our clients have requested an emergency consultation with the Public Prosecution Service to consider what, if any, avenues of appeal are open to them in respect of what they consider to be an unacceptable and hurtful decision.”

RUC registered informants in murder ­puzzle

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GARY HAGGARTY was charged with killing Eamon Fox and Gary Convie at a building site on Belfast’s North Queen Street in May 1994; Seán McDermott was shot dead in his car near Antrim in August 1994; John Harbinson was killed after being handcuffed and beaten by a UVF gang on the Mount Vernon estate in north Belfast in May 1997. 

But it’s the murder of Seán McParland (55), a father of four from south Belfast, gunned down while babysitting his grandchildren at a house in Skegoneill Avenue, Belfast, in February 1994 that raises huge questions that will likely never be answered, given Haggarty’s guilty plea.

We know that Haggarty pulled the trigger but what of the role of the two RUC “registered informants” who accompanied Haggarty to Skegoneill Avenue to carry out the killing, and the other RUC “registered informant” who prepared the second getaway car? Or indeed the role of the “registered informant” who selected the house for the murderous attack? 

Perhaps most concerningly, what were the exact roles of Haggarty’s RUC Special Branch handlers who, he asserts, were directing him in a sectarian campaign to fulfill Special Branch’s own intelligence interests and security ambitions for the north Belfast UVF?

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