Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Court rejects Michael Stone’s appeal over Stormont murder bids

Michael Stone being restrained by security staff after forcing the suspension of the Stormont Assembly

Loyalist killer Michael Stone has failed in his attempt to overturn convictions for trying to assassinate Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld a verdict that his actions during a lone assault on Stormont in November 2006 were capable of constituting an attempt to murder the politicians.

Dismissing Stone's challenge, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said the disabled 55-year-old had prepared an armoury, travelled to Parliament Buildings and used explosives to create a diversion which would enable him to enter the Assembly chamber and seek out his targets.

Sir Declan said: “We are satisfied that the lighting of a fuse can be said to be part of the execution or implementation of the plan to kill Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness and thereby more than |merely preparatory to the implementation of that plan.

“We express no view on whether the acts preceding the lighting of the fuse were sufficient.”

Stone was jailed for 16 years for the attempted murders and other offences including possessing explosives and weapons.

He claimed to have been engaged in an act of performance art when he went to Stormont on the day Ian Paisley and Mr McGuinness were due to be nominated as Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers.

The one-time loyalist icon was armed with knives, an axe and a garrotte. A flight bag contained explosive fireworks, flammable liquids, a butane gas canister and fuses. He pointed a gun at a security guard who discovered him writing graffiti on the front pillars at Parliament Buildings and warned: “You better run or you are a f*****g dead man.”

Stone, who suffers from hereditary motor neuropathy, was overpowered after trying to ignite the bag and throw it into the main foyer. He was shouting remarks about Sinn Fein and Paisley and “no power-sharing with IRA”.

Following his arrest Stone told police he had planned to enter the debating chamber at Stormont, use a smoke bomb as a diversion, and slit the throats of Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness.

Appealing the convictions for attempted murder and possession of explosive substances with intent, his lawyers argued that he knew any attempt to kill the pair would be impossible.

They instead claimed his foiled bid to get into Parliament Buildings was the action of “a sad attention-seeker out of touch with reality”. Stone's frail physical condition was emphasised, with judges told it took him two hours to make the mile-long walk from the gates of Stormont.

But delivering judgment alongside Lord Justices Higgins and Girvan, Sir Declan pointed out how Stone made a series of false claims.

These included taping over the fuses, using an empty gas canister and only having heating oil in his bag.

Stone's assertions that his letters to journalists were to add to the drama of the performance and increase coverage of the event were also rejected.

Dealing with Stone's intentions, Sir Declan added: “The fact that some of the items in his possession had been painted or improvised did not take away from the evidence pointing to his intention to kill and cause serious injury.

“We do not consider that the conclusion of the learned trial judge on this issue is open to criticism.”

Stone sat impassively throughout the judgment after being escorted into court on a walking stick. Before being returned to custody he shouted: “The truth will out, gentlemen, believe me.”

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