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Republican Brady's death 'shocked' his loyalist friend

John Brady

A former loyalist prisoner who was on the same weekend parole programme as dissident republican John Brady told an inquest the news that Mr Brady had died in the custody suite of a Londonderry police station came as a "complete shock".

Mr Brady (40), from Strabane, was found hanged in the consultation room of Strand Road police station on October 3, 2009 where he had been taken after he was arrested the previous day in connection to an altercation involving his brother-in-law, John Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy alleged Mr Brady, a former IRA prisoner, had punched him and threatened to kill him.

Billy Slone told the court that while he and Mr Brady came from "very different backgrounds" they got on well and that he considered Mr Brady a friend.

Mr Slone said on the weekend Mr Brady died, he had left prison to return to his family but that unlike previous weekends, Mr Brady had hugged him and said "keep your chin up Billy".

The inquest, sitting in Omagh court, heard Mr Slone, when trying to make sense of Mr Brady's death, suggest to the court, "I can only assume he (Mr Brady) didn't want to go back to prison".

Earlier evidence to the inquest given by his solicitor John Finucane - now MP for North Belfast - and representations by the Brady family's legal representatives suggested the decision to charge Mr Brady with assaulting Mr Kennedy and the threats to kill him would mean Mr Brady could face a lengthy prison sentence.

Mr Brady had been due to be released from prison in approximately four to six weeks as part of the parole scheme and the court heard he had become disillusioned with the dissident republican campaign and intended to move to Donegal and make a new life for himself.

The inquest also heard that Mr Kennedy, who made the allegations against Mr Brady, had contacted the Coroner's Office by email on Tuesday of last week to say he wanted to make a statement to the court but refused to give evidence in person or via video link or Skype.

Mr Kennedy said this was because he feared for his own safety and the safety of his family. The legal representative for the Brady family outlined his objections to Mr Kennedy's statement being admitted into evidence.

In this statement, which was read out, Mr Kennedy detailed his family's departure from Strabane as soon as they heard Mr Brady had died.

The inquest will reconvene next Wednesday, January 29 when the Coroner will give his findings.

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