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Michael Stone factfile

Michael Stone was found guilty today of attempting to murder Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

  • Stone was born on April 2, 1955, in Birmingham, the first child of Mary Bridget and Cyril. His mother left his father when he was five months old and he went to live with his father’s sister, Margaret Gregg, and her husband, John, in Ballyhalbert, Co Down. At times Stone wondered whether his natural mother, maiden name O’Sullivan, was a Catholic but he was baptised into the Anglican church.
  • He was brought up on the working-class loyalist estate the Braniel in east Belfast with five brothers and sisters. His best friend and fellow gang member "Rat" Todd was a cousin of Bobby Sands, the IRA hunger striker who was first of 10 republicans to die in 1981.
  • His nickname at Lisnasharragh High School, George Best’s old school, was "Flint", which he claimed was because of the tough attitude which regularly had him thrown out of class. His older sister, Rosemary, was in the same class as Best.
  • The future killer sang in St John’s church choir, Orangefield. "The singing stopped when I became leader of some junior street gang and was more interested in using my fists and feet than my angelic voice," he said.
  • Stone was given a bloody nose by a teacher and told to tell his parents he had fallen. "From that day I always had a problem with authority figures."
  • He was in the teenage Hole in the Wall gang, a "cross-community group" including Sands’ cousin, which fought turf wars with rivals using knives and other weapons.
  • From the age of 14 he trained as a cadet soldier and recalled swearing allegiance to the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association (UDA) with a Webley .45 gun, the same weapon as the deactivated firearm he had trained with in the cadets.
  • Stone worked as a "hammer boy" in the blacksmith’s shop at the Harland & Wolff shipyard. He fished for mackerel at lunchtime, recalling feeling like Huckleberry Finn.
  • He was forced to leave work after tackling a "bully" in the toilets. He set fire to his victim’s hair with a lighter, kneed him in the stomach, sending him toppling into a urinal, and then kicked him while he was on the ground.
  • By the age of 16 he had joined the UDA and was trained by former loyalist UDA leader Tommy Herron, who taught him to kill with a punch to the heart and never to trust anybody. Herron’s 1973 death was attributed by some to members of the UDA.
  • Stone passed his initiation by shooting a dog in a quarry in the Castlereagh hills south of Belfast. "I had killed an animal that had face and eyes and thought I was its friend," he recalled. In later years he hanged his neighbour’s dog in Tullycarnet, east Belfast.
  • An early taste of the Troubles came after his cousin, Wesley Lambe, was forced from his home near nationalist Ardoyne, north Belfast, in 1971.
  • In March 1988 he launched the Milltown cemetery gun and grenade attack at a republican funeral, a move which was to gain him notoriety and three murder convictions. He described fleeing the angry crowd of mourners and running out of ammunition. "My hands were soaking and covered in muck. The crowd shouted ’He is out of ammo, kill the bastard’."
  • When charged, Stone told police he was responding to the IRA’s "slaughter of innocents". The bullet-proof vest he wore was auctioned for £10,000 in a loyalist club in Scotland.
  • He was rescued by police but sentenced to 684 years behind bars, where he read Marxist literature. During that spell he painted on the side of wardrobe doors, turned his walls a rainbow colour and went on after his release to exhibit art at the east Belfast Engine Room Gallery. The avant garde and surreal works at one stage fetched up to £30,000 but are now worth less than £1,000.
  • He was freed on July 24, 2000, under the Good Friday Agreement which sealed Northern Ireland’s peace deal. He lived with his girlfriend, Suzanne Cooper, in east Belfast, England, France and Spain. At one stage they bought each other body armour for Christmas.
  • He is a father of nine from two previous marriages and grandfather of three. At home he kept seven dogs and tanks full of tropical fish swimming behind armoured glass.
  • In November 2006 he was arrested after he tried to attack Parliament Buildings in Stormont, but later maintained it was "performance art".

Belfast Telegraph