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UVF killer supergrass converts to Catholicism

By Michael Donnelly

A UVF supergrass who admitted his part in the murder of a UDA man during a bloody loyalist feud has converted to Catholicism, a court has been told.

Ian David Stewart (35), of Carntall Rise, and his brother Robert (39), of Ballyearl Court, have agreed to give evidence against nine other men charged with the murder of UDA chief Tommy English in October 2000.

Lawyers yesterday told Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice Hart that despite “any public distaste” he may have, the brothers' sentences should be cut by more than three-quarters given their “exceptional and unique case”.

The former loyalist terrorists have pleaded guilty to over 80 charges, including involvement in the English murder.

Prosecuting lawyer David Russell agreed with Mr Justice Hart that normally their crimes would attract sentences in excess of 20 years, but that they were due “considerable credit” not only for their guilty pleas, but also for agreeing to give evidence against their former associates.

Mr Russell said that it was “only in the most exceptional cases” under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act of 2005, that reductions in sentence of over three-quarters were considered.

It was revealed that Ian David Stewart had converted to Catholicism after being counselled by priests in west Belfast. The counselling took place at Clonard Monastery, the court heard.

Mr Lyttle QC, for Robert Stewart, also told the court of the prospects the brothers faced, given their decision to inform.

They will be guarded by a “hand-picked and specially trained” group of warders, and when released it would be “inevitable” that they would have to leave Ulster permanently.

Mr Lyttle also revealed that in the meantime they faced “a real and very serious risk to their lives”.

Mr Justice Hart said he would pass sentence on the brothers “as soon as possible”, but fixed no date for the hearing.

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