Belfast Telegraph

Crown witness admits lies to police

A terrorist who has turned Crown witness for one of Northern Ireland's largest ever paramilitary trials has admitted lying to police when he finally confessed to his criminal past.

Robert John Stewart, 37, who is giving evidence against alleged Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) commander Mark Haddock and 13 other defendants, told Belfast Crown Court he initially fabricated parts of his story because he didn't want to involve two of the accused.

The prosecution witness, who also admitted to being an alcoholic with a long-standing drug problem, had been asked to explain a series of inconsistencies between the account he gave police when he handed himself in three years ago and the version of events he has delivered on the stand.

The 14 accused face a litany of paramilitary charges, with Haddock and seven others facing the most serious count of murdering rival Ulster Defence Association (UDA) leader Tommy English in north Belfast 11 years ago.

Stewart and his brother David Ian Stewart are both giving state's evidence after they received a reduced sentence in pleading guilty to aiding and abetting the murder and UVF membership.

Under cross examination on the second day of the high-profile non-jury trial before judge Justice John Gillen, Haddock's lawyer Frank O'Donoghue QC challenged Stewart over various discrepancies in his versions of events.

The witness blamed the differences on the stress and nerves he was experiencing in the hours after confessing in August 2008. "I was under a lot of pressure and on a lot of Valium," he said.

But later when asked about his account of how he and his brother disposed of their clothes and a replica firearm he claims they used to hijack a taxi used in the murder, the witness admitted to lying to officers because he didn't want to implicate the individuals subsequently charged in connection with getting rid of that evidence.

Mr O'Donoghue then asked him: "How can we know that you didn't conspire to putting people into the story when you have already admitted leaving people out of the story?"

Stewart insisted that everything he had said in the witness box was the truth. "You either believe me or not," he added.

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