Belfast Telegraph

Supergrass trial: Defence's onslaught met with defiant air from stand

By Victoria O'Hara

The atmosphere surrounding Court 12 was more relaxed as the third day of the supergrass trial began - but it was loyalist 'tout' Robert Stewart who ended up under intense pressure.

The hype around the historic case seemed to have dulled slightly yesterday morning with the court - previously having standing room only - now having a few empty seats.

Just before 10.30am the 14 defendants walked in, with 13 taking their places in the dock.

Mark Haddock, in a blue checked shirt, was once more separated on the far side of the court and surrounded by prison officers.

The somewhat relaxed scene quickly changed as Stewart stepped into the witness box.

The convicted UVF terrorist only had a minute or two to remove his jacket, sit down and take a sip of water before he faced a grilling.

A verbal battle emerged between Haddock's defence QC - who consistently accused him of lying.

Stewart, under oath, remained consistent in his replies that it was alleged UVF boss Mark Haddock who was behind the killing of Tommy English.

The morning was dominated by the so-called 'reconnaissance' mission to English's house.

Question after question was fired at Stewart in a bid to discredit his reliability.

Stewart said any inconsistency in evidence was down to "pressure" and the "Valium" he was taking at the time.

At one point he defiantly said: "Everyone in that dock is guilty and Mr Haddock over there."

He insisted that Haddock was in "overall command" of the murder mission.

At close to two hours of giving evidence, Mr Justice Gillen asked Stewart if he wanted to stop for a rest.

Refusing, he insisted he would carry on, just needing more water.

At times laughter came from the public gallery in response to some of Stewart's answers.

Waiting for the trial to start after lunch, the defendants sat smiling and chatting to each other.

As Stewart was brought in their smiles faded, with their focus quickly shifting from each other to him.

Despite the pressure under cross-examination - and from the dock - Stewart claimed it was the oppressive paramilitary life that led him to choose to go to the police.

"I didn't want to be that person anymore," he said.

Tilting his head towards the accused in the dock, he said: "No matter how many times they stare at me, I feel a lot better for it ... they should try it."

The trial continues.

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