Belfast Telegraph

Winston Rea denies conspiracy to murder and membership of Red Hand Commando

By Ashleigh McDonald

A Co Down man has appeared in court and denied multiple offences linked to loyalist paramilitary activity over a period spanning two decades.

Winston Churchill Rea, who arrived at Belfast Crown Court in a wheelchair, denied 19 offences including aiding and abetting murder, conspiracy to murder and membership of the Red Hand Commando.

As the charges were put to the 66-year-old, from Springwell Crescent in Groomsport, relatives of the murdered men named on the bill of indictment sat in the public gallery.

Included in the charges faced by 'Winkie' Rea are conspiring to murder Catholic men John Devine in July 1989 and John O'Hara in April 1991. Mr Devine (37) was shot in front of his teenage son in west Belfast while Mr O'Hara, a 41-year-old taxi driver, was lured to his murder in the south of the city.

Rea has also been charged with conspiring with others to threaten to kill LVF leader Billy Wright in August 1996.

When all 19 charges, which are said to have been committed between November 1973 and August 1996, were put to Rea, he replied "not guilty".

Rea is also facing firearms and other terror-related charges, including conspiring to possess firearms secured from the Ulster Resistance paramilitary group on dates between November 1986 and October 1994.

He is further charged with encouraging the murder of "persons working in shops selling An Phoblacht in republican and nationalist areas" between November 1977 and October 1994.

After he denied all charges, Judge Patricia Smyth asked that the case be listed for mention on December 8.

A date has yet to be set for the non-jury trial.

When the judge heard there were no objections from the Crown for continuing bail, she told Rea he was free to leave the court.

Belfast Telegraph

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