US gunrunner agrees to testify against Sinn Fein man in Belfast court
An American gunrunner is set to be flown to Northern Ireland to give evidence in court against a senior Sinn Fein strategist, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
In what would be one of the most high-profile trials in years, Florida stockbroker turned gunrunner Mike Logan has agreed to testify against Sean "Spike" Murray, once a prominent IRA member, in Belfast Crown Court.
Logan claims he sent Murray hundreds of weapons during his five-year gunrunning career which began after the IRA ceasefire and continued following the Good Friday Agreement.
Murray is one of Sinn Fein's most senior officials in Belfast. Less that a fortnight ago, he was a member of the party delegation which met the Chief Constable at PSNI headquarters to deny IRA involvement in the murder of Kevin McGuigan and to insist the IRA no longer existed.
The deadly cache of weapons that Logan sent the Provos included around 200 handguns which were used in several murders including the killing of two police officers in Lurgan in 1997.
Spike Murray has continually denied any involvement in the gun-smuggling plot, describing the allegations as "without foundation".
But Logan (56) claims he worked for the IRA, reporting directly to Murray, who has served seven years in the H-Blocks for explosive offences and is a regular visitor to Sinn Fein offices in Stormont.
The Belfast Telegraph can exclusively reveal that a high-powered PSNI delegation travelled to the US last month to ask Logan to give evidence against Murray. They included Det Chief Supt Tim Hanley, Head of Serious Crime Branch.
The detectives held a three-hour meeting with Logan in a Florida Hotel. His lawyer spoke to them on the phone in advance to ensure he had immunity from prosecution.
Logan initially refused to co-operate with the PSNI. However, they remained in regular contact with him. Logan changed his mind a fortnight ago and told the police he was willing to help the investigation and to give evidence against Murray.
Three detectives and a PSNI camera operator are due to meet Logan in Florida in early October to formally interview him and record his evidence on video.
Sources say that if a prosecution case is successfully constructed, detectives have told Logan he will be flown to Belfast for the trial and housed in secure accommodation. He has been promised "total protection" in court and when travelling to and from court.
When asked about the dramatic new developments in the case, a PSNI spokesman would only say: "Inquiries are continuing. This remains a live investigation and as such we can't comment."
Apart from sending the weapons used to murder Constables John Graham and David Johnston in Lurgan in 1997, another gun Logan sent the IRA was used to kill Real IRA Belfast commander Joe O'Connor three years later.
Logan believes a third was used in the IRA's attempted murder in England of former Special Branch agent Martin McGartland in 1999.
McGartland was shot six times outside his home in Whitley Bay. His life was saved by neighbours using cling film to stop the blood flow from his wound.
Two months later, the Czech-made Luger pistol used in the attack was found in undergrowth along the River Tyne. McGartland claims there has been "a massive cover-up" about the gun's origins as the authorities want to avoid blaming the IRA for the attack.
Logan was first interviewed in April last year in a BBC Spotlight programme which suggested that the British authorities, at the highest level, knew the full details of Spike Murray's involvement in the arms' importation but turned a blind eye in order to protect the peace process.
The day after the programme, the DUP met the PSNI to raise concerns and, hours later, it was announced police were investigating the Florida gunrunning operation.
Until our revelations today, details of that investigation had remained secret.
Logan was given immunity from prosecution by the US authorities in 2002 in return for giving them information about the weapons he had bought for the IRA.