Belfast Telegraph

UVF supergrass Haggarty phoned police from prison after McCord killing to identify suspects, court told

Gary Haggarty has been released and put on to a witness protection scheme
Gary Haggarty has been released and put on to a witness protection scheme

By Alan Erwin

A former loyalist terror boss turned state informer phoned his police handler from prison days after a notorious killing to identify suspects, the High Court was told.

Lawyers for the victim's father said the revelation corroborates Gary Haggarty's claims that he also provided advance warning, and should lead to the prosecution of two ex-officers allegedly implicated in a failure to prevent the murder.

Raymond McCord Jr, a 22-year-old former RAF airman, was beaten to death by an Ulster Volunteer Force gang who dumped his body in quarry outside north Belfast on November 9, 1997.

His father, Raymond McCord Sr, is challenging a Public Prosecution Service (PPS) decision not to bring charges against the ex-police officers.

The murder was at the centre of former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's report in 2007 which found collusion between the loyalist unit and their Special Branch handlers.

Last year Gary Haggarty, who had been a UVF commander before turning supergrass, was jailed after confessing to hundreds of paramilitary offences.

The 47-year-old pleaded guilty as part of a controversial state deal which offered a reduced sentence in return for providing evidence on other loyalist killings.

Despite Haggarty implicating 16 people in serious crime, only one man currently faces prosecution for murder using his evidence.

In 2017 the then Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, announced that his uncorroborated claims were insufficient to prove allegations made against other suspects.

Mr McCord claims that stance is unfair and fails to give proper weight to Haggarty's evidence and general credibility.

Raymond McCord Jnr
Raymond McCord Jnr

Despite enlisting senior English-based barrister to review the evidence, the PPS reiterated its position in a letter earlier this year.

The court heard that correspondence disclosed how queries with the Ombudsman's Office had identified a record of telephone contact between Haggarty and police on November 13, 1997 - four days after Mr McCord's murder.

It was claimed that the loyalist informer named two individuals as having potentially played a role in the killing.

Ronan Lavery QC, for the victim's father, argued that the new material corroborates, rather than diminishes, Haggarty's account of also providing prior warning.

Seeking an order that a further review should be carried out by different counsel, he said: "The impartiality of this process is at stake here.

"Where you have an allegation of state collusion... the state should be bending over backwards to show a fresh and independent approach has been taken."

Tony McGleenan QC, representing the PPS, said records show the information Haggarty provided to a handler was passed directly to investigating detectives the same day.

He argued that "coming in after the fact" with a phone call from prison four days on from the murder undermined the loyalist's claims.

Reserving judgment, Lord Justice Treacy pledged to give a decision before the end of term.

Outside court Mr McCord said: "What happened is totally wrong. There's no indication that police interviewed Gary Haggarty after November 13 when he gave more information to his handlers, and I want to know why." 

His solicitor, Ciaran O'Hare of McIvor Farrell, added: My client is concerned the prosecutorial review process has been tainted because new evidence only came to light at the eleventh hour.

"He is also of the view that the new evidence received by the PPS is corroborating evidence, and there should now be prosecutions in respect of these former police officers."

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