19 March 1997 Edition
Keys was RUC agent
Murdered LVF man was working for Special Branch
By Ned Kelly
David Keys, one of the men charged with the Poyntzpass killings, and who was beaten to death by LVF prisoners in H Block 6 in Long Kesh, was a Special Branch agent, An Phoblacht can reveal.
Keys was a leading member of the UVF in East Belfast and was in charge of the loyalist groups drugs operations until 1996 when he went with the breakaway LVF.
In November 1996 Keys was shot five times in what was thought to be an attempted execution authorised by the UVF leadership. After the attempt on his life Keys went to live in Banbridge in County Down.
But while Keys was a UVF drug dealer he was also working as a Special Branch agent. He attempted to recruit another man, also a drug dealer, to work as an RUC informer. A relative of this man's approached Sinn Fein councillor Sean Hayes to say that his relative feared for his life.
Hayes now wants RUC boss Ronnie Flanagan to disclose the full details of Keys association with the RUC at the time of the Poyntzpass killings.
Keys, who also served in the RIR for a time, was charged along with Banbridge men Stephen McClean, Noel McCready and Ryan Robley, all ex-members of the UDR, with killing Damien Trainor and Philip Allen. McCready and McClean were dismissed from the UDR in 1990 and 1993 respectively, while Robley completed his commission. All three men, along with Keys, moved to the LVF wing in H Block 6.
It is widely believed that Keys made statements to the RUC which implicated the other three.
Keys' body was found in a cell last Sunday morning. He had been badly beaten and had his wrists cut and was strangled before being hung up with a sheet. It is thought he was tortured before he was killed.
News reports now link Keys to the brutal murder of Armagh woman Ann Marie Smyth who was found dead with her throat cut in East Belfast in 1992. Reports also claim he systematically beat his girlfriend over a two year period.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Councillor Alex Maskey has challenged the RUC to confirm reports that they recovered the weapons used in the Poyntzpass murders.
``If these claims are true, why are the RUC witholding the information? I challenge the RUC to disclose the forensics on these weapons and their history.'' Maskey also asked, ``Why is it taking so long for the RUC Chief, Ronnie Flanagan to give his assessment about which Loyalist group was responsible for planting the bomb in Carnlough over two weeks ago and the sending of parcel bombs to a number of nationalists? Is it because he knows that it was the UFF and the UVF and it would be counterproductive to the RUC political agenda to have both loyalist parties expelled from the Stormont talks at this time?''
Part of the tradition
By Laurence McKeown
David Keys is dead. Before he died, he was beaten, tortured, then strangled, had his wrists cut and finally was hanged. Death, when it eventually came, was probably a relief.
Keys was an ex member of the RIR who was charged last week with the murders of Damien Trainor and Philip Allen in Poyntzpass. He was once a member of the UVF but fell out of favour with that organisation over drugs and was shot by them in 1996. In recent times he became a member of the LVF. He was also either an RUC informer or someone who provided information to them under interrogation. In the words of the father of his ex-girlfriend he was a brutal man. For all of the above reasons he was not someone whom nationalists or republicans would have much time for and yet as details of the manner of his death were revealed I couldn't help but feel some degree of sympathy for him. Sympathy for someone who knew his end was near - but first the terror had to come.
Those who have experienced the inside of the H-Blocks will know that the thick walls and ceilings of reinforced concrete carry sounds the length of the wing. I wondered what sounds were heard as David Keys lived out his last moments. And just how long were those moments? Did he cry out? Did others hear his screams? Or were they muffled sobs? The cry of despair. What impact, if any, did that have on the others in the wing?
Thoughts came to me of the victims of the Shankill Road Butchers. The butchers took pleasure in dealing out death. Their killings took hours. Mostly it was Catholics they killed but Protestants were sometimes their victims too. Knives, cutlasses, hatchets and machetes were used. On other occasions they simply beat their victims to death.
One, at least, of the Butchers was an ex-UDR man. Keys three co-accused are ex-UDR men. They were in the wing with Keys when he was killed. I wondered how many others in the wing had received their training in the ranks of the UDR/RIR.
The LVF, which killed Keys, is an offspring of the UVF, the same loyalist grouping that the Shankill Butchers were a part of. And they now share other more gruesome features in common. Lennie Murphy, the leader of the Butchers, though never charged with the murders, killed his own cellmate while in the Crumlin Road prison on remand. Murphy believed he was going to give evidence against him. It is said that Keys was going to give evidence against his co-accused. Murphy used poison on his victim. The LVF is apparently less sophisticated. And yet we would be mistaken if we believed that lack of sophistication in their actions means lack of thought or intent.
The killing of Damien Trainor and Philip Allen was a very deliberate one. In the eyes of the LVF and their supporters, Protestants associating with Catholics pose as big a ``threat'', according to their warped view of the world, as do armed republicans. Possibly even more so. They come from within their own community and ``should know better''. They're a bad example to others.
The LVF wing in H Block 6 has been attracting new recruits over previous months. Amongst their number are those sentenced for some of the most brutal of killings. Killings of Catholics uninvolved and most often disinterested in the conflict here. The aim has been to terrorise the Catholic community. Given their recent statement following the rally in Portadown, the killing of Damien Trainor and Philip Allen in Poyntzpass and most recently that of David Keys in their own wing and in such a manner, it would appear that they are now turning the focus of their attention to those less than enthusiastic members within their own community. It's only a matter of time until the off-spring challenges the parent.