Belfast Telegraph

Police on alert over murder trial

Police will be on high alert in Northern Ireland this week amid fears of unrest in loyalist communities as one of the largest paramilitary murder trials in decades gets under way.

Notorious Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) chief Mark Haddock and 13 alleged associates will be in the dock in Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday on charges connected to the killing of rival loyalist leader Tommy English 10 years ago.

After a summer which saw violence erupt in loyalist neighbourhoods in Belfast and beyond, police have concerns the trial could be the spark that ignites further trouble.

There is simmering anger within loyalism that 42-year-old Haddock, a one-time police informant, and the other defendants will be tried on evidence based largely on the testimony of two of their co-accused, brothers David and Robert Stewart, from Newtownabbey.

The self-confessed UVF members both turned Crown witnesses to gain a lesser sentence.

Supporters of the 14 accused have likened the case to the so-called 'supergrass' trials in the 1980s, which saw both loyalist and republican paramilitaries jailed on the evidence of former colleagues who turned state's evidence.

Special measures have already been introduced ahead of the non-jury trial, with witnesses and members of English's family due to be kept in a secure room in a different building, linked to Court 12 in Laganside courthouse by videolink.

With many supporters of the 14 accused expected in court, a massive police presence will be deployed.

But the Police Service of Northern Ireland is also making plans in the event of trouble in potential flashpoints such as east and north Belfast and south-east Antrim.

A police source said: "We will not only be policing this trial inside and outside Laganside but far beyond that, as and when required."

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