Winston 'Winkie' Rea ordered to attend court for decision on prosecution over murdered Catholic workmen
A wheelchair-bound loyalist must attend court for a final decision on whether he is to be prosecuted for murdering two Catholic workmen in Belfast more than 25 years ago, a judge ordered today.
Winston "Winkie" Rea currently stands charged with the paramilitary killings of John Devine in 1989 and John O'Hara in 1991.
The 65-year-old, of Springwell Crescent in Groomsport, Co Down, is also accused of two other attempted murders, weapons offences and membership of the outlawed Red Hand Commando terror grouping.
He is currently on bail and excused from attending reviews of the case at Belfast Magistrates' Court due to his current poor health.
But a judge was told today that the Public Prosecution Service has now formed a preliminary view on the case against him.
Seeking a three-week adjournment, PPS lawyer John O'Neill said a final consultation is to take place before that decision is confirmed.
He also revealed relatives of the victims want to be present when the position is announced.
Defence solicitor Pat Kelly argued against Rea being compelled to attend on the next court date, citing his client's mobility issues.
However, Deputy District Judge Gerard Trainor directed the accused must attend in three weeks' time.
He said: "The families of the victims will be here, he ought to be here."
Rea was charged with the murders in June by detectives from the PSNI's Legacy Investigation Branch investigating killings stretching back into the Troubles. He denies the offences.
The fresh probe came after police won a legal battle to gain access to interviews Rea gave to Boston College researchers behind a project on the Northern Ireland conflict.
John Devine, 37, was shot dead at his home on Fallswater Street in west Belfast on July 23, 1989.
He was sitting in his living room with his 13-year-old son when gunmen forced their way in and killed him.
Taxi driver John O'Hara, 41, was murdered at Dunluce Avenue in the south of the city on April 17, 1991.
He was en route to pick up a passenger when two masked men approached and fired several shots at his car, fatally injuring him.
Other charges brought against Rea include the attempted murders of Malachy McAllister in Belfast on October 2, 1988, and an unknown male in the city's Falls Road area sometime between January 1, 1971 and February 23, 1973.
He also faces counts of membership of a proscribed organisation on dates between 1973 and 1996, possession of an AK47 assault rifle, three revolvers, a 9mm Browning pistol and ammunition with intent to endanger life.
A further charge of possessing information useful to terrorists relates to claims that between 1984 and 1986 he had documents containing the identification and address details of suspected members of the IRA.
Rea attended court on a wheelchair for his first appearance, when it confirmed that he made no admissions throughout 32 police interviews.
He also provided a statement of denial during questioning.
He remains on bail, with conditions prohibiting any contact with prosecution witnesses.