Belfast Telegraph

Supergrass trial: I lied to police, admits witness

By Victoria O'Hara

A star witness in the loyalist supergrass case has admitted telling a "blooming great whopper" to police investigating the murder of UDA chief Tommy English.

Ex-UVF member Robert Stewart said he deliberately left out evidence about two of the accused in the account he gave to police in 2008.

Stewart, an alcoholic and former habitual drug taker, made the admission during the third day of the trial in Laganside Courts. But the 37-year-old, who is giving evidence against alleged UVF commander and former police agent Mark Haddock and 13 other defendants, insisted he was not the "shooter" of Mr English in October 2000.

Under cross-examination for the second day by Haddock's barrister Frank O'Donoghue QC, Stewart also denied he'd ever been paid for his evidence.

Mr O'Donoghue challenged Stewart over discrepancies in what he originally told police after turning himself in, along with his brother David, in August 2008.

"You intentionally lied to protect people, so have you intentionally lied to accuse people?" he asked.

But Stewart insisted he was now telling the truth and both he and his brother David were two of four men involved in hijacking a taxi on the night of Mr English's murder. Mr O'Donoghue asked if it was the only taxi he had ever hijacked.

Stewart said he was not sure, but that he had probably hijacked more.

Mr English (40) was gunned down in his house in front of his wife and three young children during a bloody feud between the UDA and UVF.

Despite admitting he initially lied to police, Stewart denied that he told another "whopping great lie" in claiming Haddock had asked him, his brother and several others if they wanted to carry out the killing.

During the non-jury trial in front of judge Justice John Gillen, Stewart claimed he handed over an imitation gun used to hijack the taxi to an alleged member of the Shankill Road UVF. Mr O'Donoghue then asked if the killing was carried out by the Shankill UVF. "No," Stewart said.

Mr O'Donoghue then asked: "Did you shoot Tommy English?" Then he asked: "Are you the shooter?" Stewart replied "No" to both questions.

Under cross-examination on Tuesday, Stewart admitted to lying in his first police statement and to memory problems caused by drug and alcohol abuse.

He has, however, insisted that the evidence he was now giving was the truth.

Stewart said: "Everyone in the dock is guilty and Mr Haddock over there as well." He later told the court: "Why would I go and put my life at risk for telling lies?"

Stewart said after joining the UVF in 1994 he became part of a command structure, adding that if he did not follow orders he was worried about "ending up in a skip". He also claimed that Haddock was in "overall command".

"He wanted Tommy English dead and the others were there to play their part," he said.

The witness, who had previously admitted to taking cocaine, ecstacy and prescription drugs, claimed that most of the accused had either supplied or sold them. The trial has been adjourned until Monday.

Background

The so-called loyalist supergrass trial began on Tuesday amid high security inside and outside the court. Thirteen of the 14 defendants are in the dock - Haddock has been segregated, sitting outside the dock surrounded by prison officers. The defendants are being represented by 24 barristers and the trial is expected to last up to 14 weeks.

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