Belfast Telegraph

UVF supergrass Gary Haggarty gets life for five murders and 195 terror offences

By John Cassidy

A former 'brigadier' of the south east Antrim UVF turned supergrass has been jailed for life after he pleaded guilty to 200 terrorist-related charges, including five counts of murder.

Gary Haggarty admitted all 200 charges following an eight-year police investigation.

There was a heavy PSNI presence both inside and outside the court for the arraignment proceedings yesterday, and the public gallery was packed with relatives of Haggarty's victims.

Haggarty (45), formerly of Rush Park on the northern outskirts of Belfast but now with an address as c/o PSNI Knocknagoney in east Belfast, stood in the dock of Belfast Crown Court flanked by two officers from the Tactical Support Group as the lengthy list of charges spanning a 16-year period from 1991 until 2007 was read out. The father-of-three pleaded guilty to:

  • The murder of John Harbinson, who was beaten to death with iron bars in Mount Vernon on dates between May 16 and May 19, 1997.
  • The murder of father-of-four Sean McParland, who was shot dead at a house in north Belfast while babysitting his grandchildren on February 24, 1994.
  • The murder of Gary Convie and Eamon Fox at a building site at North Queen Street on May 17, 1994.
  • The murder of Sean McDermott, who was found shot dead in a car in Antrim on August 28, 1994.

Haggarty admitted a further 195 charges which included:

  • Five counts of attempted murder.
  • 23 counts of conspiracy to murder.
  • Four counts of kidnap.
  • Six counts of false imprisonment.
  • Five counts of hijacking.
  • 47 counts of possession of firearms and ammunition with intent contrary to the 1981 Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 1981.
  • 19 counts of possession of firearms and ammunition with intent contrary to the 2004 Firearms (NI) Order.

Judge Mr Justice Treacy told Haggarty: "In respect of the pleas of guilty to murder, the only sentence that can be passed by this court is one of life imprisonment."

He added that the tariff will be set at a later date.

Prosecution counsel Ciaran Murphy QC told the court that a further count of assault and possession of an offensive weapon would be added to the indictment and would be dealt with by way of a 'voluntary bill' on September 8.

The court heard that on that date "an accepted factual summary" drafted by the prosecution and defence would be prepared for the court dealing with the factual basis of each of the 200 charges.

Mr Murphy said it would take two days to go through the charges and related matters, and the Public Prosecution Service would also provide a "written document setting out precisely where they are" in relation to Haggary's status as an assisting offender.

Mr Justice Treacy was told that Haggarty had agreed to become an assisting offender to both the police and prosecution.

This relates to the terrorist-related activities of other UVF members.

Defence counsel Martin O'Rourke told the court that there would be no need for a pre-sentence report as the papers in the case were "so voluminous".

Mr Justice Treacy said the sentencing hearing would take place on September 25 and September 26 this year.

Addressing the police in the dock, the judge said: "Take him down to the cells then."

Haggarty was escorted from the court by four police officers and two prison officers, but was not placed in handcuffs.

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