Belfast Telegraph

RHI inquiry: DUP adviser Timothy Cairns - 'I feared Bell would assault me'

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By Mark Edwards

A former DUP special adviser has told the RHI inquiry he feared Jonathan Bell would assault him during a row at Stormont.

Timothy Cairns, giving evidence on Tuesday morning, spoke of an incident on Valentine's Day in February 2013 in which Mr Bell was being teased by colleagues about going out with his wife for a meal rather than going to a party event.

Mr Cairns said: "He believed that I should have backed him up, but I believed everyone in the room believed it was gentle office banter. Then there was an exchange between us where Mr Bell got extremely angry."

"It occurred in his office in parliament buildings. Mr Bell was extremely angry and was shouting that I should not make a fool of him in front of the First Minister [Peter Robinson]. He was sitting across the room from myself, I was standing a few feet from the door. Mr Bell then put me in fear or apprehension of assault at that point in time.

"He started to walk across the room while he was aggressive and angry. I don't know if anything would come of it but I was placed in fear at that time.

"He was walking across, he was stood up, he was angry, his fists were clenched." Mr Cairns then left the room.

Mr Cairns made other allegations about Mr Bell, including that he was "not across his brief" while DETI minister. He also told the inquiry that Timothy Johnston, who was a special adviser during 2015, was second in power only to Arlene Foster.

"Mr Johnston's influence was seen from the party top to bottom," he said.

Read how Tuesday morning's evidence unfolded here:

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