Belfast Telegraph

At least five more years for Stone

Loyalist killer Michael Stone must serve at least another five years in jail, Northern Ireland's most senior judge has ruled.

Stone, 58, was given a minimum 30-year sentence after opening fire on mourners at Milltown cemetery in West Belfast during funerals of three republicans shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988. Stone launched a gun and grenade attack killing three people and injuring more than 50 others.

He was later released from jail in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement peace accord but was sent back to Maghaberry prison in 2006 after attempting to murder Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Parliament Buildings in Belfast where he was wrestled to the ground by security staff while carrying explosives.

Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan ruled that Stone should serve a minimum 30-year term before he could be considered for release. A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Prison Service said his earliest possible release date would be 2018.

A spokeswoman for the Lord Chief Justice's office said: "Commenting that the effect on the victims will live with them forever, the Lord Chief Justice set a minimum term of 30 years before the prisoner should be considered for release."

Sitting in Belfast, the senior judge fixed the minimum term to be served by Stone for his conviction in 1989 of six counts of murder, five of attempted murder and three of conspiracy to murder. The offences happened in the 1980s and included the attack at Milltown.

As the last of the three IRA coffins was lowered into the joint grave, the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) assailant fired shots and threw a grenade towards the crowd. Some mourners chased Stone as he retreated while continuing to fire shots and hurl grenades.

All three of his victims died during the pursuit, two were civilians. Thomas McErlean was 20 and married with two children. John Murray, 26, was also a married father-of-two. The third, Kevin Brady, was a member of the IRA.

The attack at Milltown was to have further tragic consequences at Brady's funeral three days later, when two British Army corporals were dragged from their car, taken to waste land and shot dead after inadvertently driving into the funeral cortege.

Stone has been in prison since 1988 except for a period between 2000 and 2006 when he was released on licence under the Good Friday Agreement, which enshrined the peace process in Northern Ireland. He was returned to jail following an attack at Stormont in 2006 armed with explosives when he said he intended to kill Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.


From Belfast Telegraph