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Winston 'Winkie' Rea to be charged over 1991 murder of two Catholic workmen

By Alan Erwin

Published 28/11/2016

Charges: ‘Winkie’ Rea
Charges: ‘Winkie’ Rea

A veteran loyalist will be prosecuted in connection with the murders of two Catholic workmen in Belfast more than 25 years ago, it was confirmed.

Winston "Winkie" Rea is also set to face a "multitude" of other charges following a fresh investigation by PSNI detectives, a judge was told on Monday.

The disclosure was made as the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced its position at Belfast Magistrates' Court.

Rea, of Springwell Crescent in Groomsport, Co Down, currently stands charged with the paramilitary killings of John Devine in 1989 and John O'Hara in 1991.

The 65-year-old is also accused of two other attempted murders, including an attack on Malachy McAllister in the city in October 1988, weapons offences and membership of the outlawed Red Hand Commando terror grouping.

He had been expected to attend court for today's final decision on the case against him.

But he was excused due to continuing health issues that have led to him using a wheelchair.

With victims' relatives gathered in the public gallery, PPS lawyer John O'Neill revealed the intention is to take the case to the Crown Court.

He said: "I can confirm the prosecution will be prosecuting Mr Rea on indictment.

"That will include offences relating to the attempted murder of Malachy McAllister, the murder of John Devine and the murder of John O'Hara."

Mr O'Neill added: "There will be a multitude of counts on the statement of complaint."

The position set out by the PPS means Ray may ultimately face trial for offences other than the actual killings and attempted murders.

Rea was charged in June by detectives from the PSNI's Legacy Investigation Branch investigating killings stretching back into the Troubles. He denies the allegations.

The renewed probe came after police won a legal battle to gain access to interviews he 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 currently brought against Rea include another attempted murder of 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.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall adjourned proceedings until January, when a date for preliminary enquiry will be fixed.

She agreed to again excuse Rea from attending the next court hearing.

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