Sentence deal came as surprise to us: UVF brothers
After seven weeks in the witness box, so-called supergrass Ian Stewart ended his evidence yesterday by telling Diplock judge Mr Justice Gillen in the loyalist UVF terror trial that he and his brother knew nothing about any deals to be had with the authorities.
Stewart claimed that it came as a “complete surprise” when he and his brother Robert learned they could get a reduced life sentence for their involvement in the murder of UDA rival Tommy English in October 2000.
The elder of the Stewart brothers, who has become a Catholic, also claimed it was not until they were sentenced a year ago this month that they were told the amount of that reduction.
As it turned out, they only had to serve a minimum of three years of their life terms.
From the start of the marathon Belfast Crown Court non-jury trial, which began on September 6, they implicated 14 men, including alleged UVF commander and Special Branch agent Mark Haddock, in a catalogue of their UVF crimes.
Among the 37 charges faced by some of the accused is the murder of Mr English.
He was shot dead at the height of a feud within loyalism, and killed simply because he was a member of the UVF's rival terror group, the UDA.
The brothers also gave evidence about attacks on three men who had run foul of the UVF, including a man suspected of being a paedophile.
The court heard one of their victims received a beating described by Robert Stewart as “one of the worst they (his UVF unit) had ever handed out”.
It is expected that the trial will be adjourned today following legal arguments and will resume again in the new year.