Belfast Telegraph

Informer Haggarty murdered Catholic pensioner ‘to hide role as an agent’

By Ashleigh McDonald

Members of a UVF killer gang flipped a coin to see who would act as the "primary gunman" prior to murdering a Belfast man babysitting his grandchildren, a court has heard.

The shocking details surrounding the murders of five men and the attempts to murder scores more emerged at Gary Haggarty's sentence hearing at Belfast Crown Court yesterday.

The loyalist terror chief turned supergrass admitted involvement in more than 200 offences committed over a 16-year period from 1991 to 2007.

The 45-year old, whose address was given as c/o PSNI Knocknagoney Road, confessed to playing a role in several murders committed in north Belfast and south east Antrim, and conspiring with others to murder scores of other people - including fellow UVF member Mark Haddock, who Haggarty wanted to expose as a police informer.

Senior prosecuting barrister Ciaran Murphy QC told Mr Justice Colton that Haggarty was arrested in August 2009 for the murder of John Harbinson, who was beaten to death in Mount Vernon by the UVF in May 1997.

Following his arrest, Haggarty signed an 'assistant document' the following January in which he implicated himself in multiple serious offences.

Mr Murphy said Haggarty admitted to 200 offences, with a further 301 "taken into consideration".

After being told that one such offence Haggarty admitted to was aiding and abetting the February 1991 murder of Peter McTasney, Mr Justice Colton told Haggarty he was imposing a life sentence. The judge also told Haggarty he will set the tariff at the end of the current proceedings.

Following his arrest and later decision to turn supergrass, Haggarty admitted his role in several murders - including Catholic pensioner Sean McParland.

The retired coal merchant was gunned down as he babysat his four grandchildren in 1994.

The killer gang struck at a house in Skegoneill Avenue, and Haggarty - who was one of the two shooters - later told police a coin was flipped to determine who would be the "primary gunman".

Although the pensioner was not the target, Haggarty later told police he planned to "empty all his rounds into the victim ... my plan was to kill him".

He also confessed to murdering Mr McParland in a bid to disprove suspicions he was a police informer, that he was a "willing participant" and that he "was sorry it was the wrong person killed" and "sorry for the kids who were there".

Haggarty - who, during his time in the UVF, rose to the ranks of battalion commander and provost marshall - also admitted his involvement in the May 1994 sectarian murders of Gary Convie and Eamon Fox.

The workmen died after they were shot by a gunman firing a weapon from a children's playground in north Belfast.

Haggarty was in the area prior to the double murder, shook the gunman's hand as he left the scene just before the killing, and later told police: "I didn't believe the victims were republicans, they were just soft, easy targets."

Prosecuting barrister Ciaran Murphy said Haggarty also confessed to "punishment shootings he admitted he either conducted himself or was involved in". This included the shooting in both hands of a man who stole a car belonging to a senior loyalist.

Amongst the scores of firearms offences, Haggarty admitted arming himself with a Sten Gun and an AK47 in the summer of 2002 "in anticipation of murdering Johnny Adair and others".

Telling the court this offence occurred around the start of the loyalist feud, Mr Murphy said Haggarty got the guns after being told Adair and John White had been seen outside his Mount Vernon home.

Haggarty told police he armed himself with the guns and was prepared to "empty the full clip into the car" if the then UDA chief returned to the area.

Other offences Haggarty admitted were providing weapons for use to kill LVF members, authorising the purchase of weapons from Scotland, and planting a bomb under the vehicle of a Catholic taxi driver from Bawnmore.

He also admitted involvement in a conspiracy to murder Mark Haddock, between January and May 2006. At a time when Haggarty was battalion commander, and Haddock was part of his section but in prison, Haggarty was involved in a murder plot.

Once the Crown's submissions finish, defence barrister Martin O'Rourke QC will address the hearing on Haggarty's behalf, ahead of Mr Justice Colton handing down his sentence.

Belfast Telegraph

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