UVF murder of husband and wife 'was part of cesspit of collusion'
The double murder of a husband and wife is part of "a cesspit of collusion" between the state and loyalist paramilitaries in Mid-Ulster, a court has heard.
Charlie and Tess Fox were shot dead by the UVF at their home in Moy, Co Tyrone, in 1992. The killings have been linked to 28 other murders and attempted murders by the UVF's Mid-Ulster gang.
A lawyer told a hearing in Belfast that they had been carried out "with the aid of the state".
Peter Corrigan, who is acting for relatives of Mr and Mrs Fox, alleged false information had been used to sabotage the investigation into their deaths.
He said key suspects - including then UVF leader in Mid-Ulster, Billy Wright, and Mark 'Swinger' Fulton - were never interviewed.
"There was a sabotaging post the murder of the Foxes, and we have real concerns that that is a cover-up in relation to collusion," Mr Corrigan said.
The hearing was told a public inquiry, funded by the Government, may be the family's best hope of a full examination of the case. Relatives believe an over-arching probe examining the other 28 crimes is the only way they can get to the truth.
Mr and Mrs Fox were gunned down in the kitchen of their isolated home in September 1992. The pair, aged 65 and 53 respectively, were not involved in paramilitary activity.
Yesterday's preliminary hearing heard their murders were linked to 28 other cases, including a 1991 UVF gun attack in Cappagh, Co Tyrone.
Mr Corrigan said he had concerns of collusion "at the highest levels". Mr Corrigan questioned whether Wright and Fulton, both now deceased, were working for the state at the time.
Mr Corrigan recalled a conversation with what he described as a senior member of the now-defunct Historical Enquiries Team.
"He said clearly and unequivocally that the murders in Mid-Ulster amount to a cesspit of collusion, involving the security services, security forces, UDR, state agents, [which] is rotten to the core," the lawyer added.
"The families want a public inquiry - they want the truth," Mr Corrigan added.
Senior coroner John Leckey said he would not take it as a criticism if the state intervened to take over the investigation.
Pointing to the lack of resources within the Coroners' Service for such a probe, he told relatives: "You may feel a public inquiry is the best mechanism".
Barrister Stephen Ritchie, representing the police, said there were 54 "legacy" inquests.
"It is a significant number of cases which have to be dealt with", he said.
An update is due on the case in early August.