Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Ex-hitman signs DUP candidate's election papers

Jailed UVF man Spence backs council hopeful Pankhurst

Dale Pankhurst
Dale Pankhurst

By Christopher Woodhouse

AN ex-UVF hitman has signed the nomination papers for a DUP council candidate, Sunday Life can reveal.

Robert Hayes Spence, known as Bobby Spence, endorsed Belfast City Council re-election hopeful Dale Pankhurst for next month's poll.

Mr Pankhurst has already defended having his papers signed by Orangeman John Aughey (below), who was jailed for driving his car into a crowd of protesters at a parade in north Belfast.

Mr Pankhurst said he was unaware Spence had served time in jail.

In June 1988 Spence was jailed for 12 years for trying to murder republican Anthony "Booster" Hughes at his north Belfast home the previous September.

He was caught in a hijacked car with a pistol, gloves and a mask which the Crown said were to be used to kill a man, later revealed to be Hughes, in Ardoyne.

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Three years earlier, Spence was convicted at Belfast Crown Court on the word of UVF supergrass William 'Budgie' Allen.

He was found guilty of maliciously wounding a man in September 1982, possession of firearms and UVF membership and received a two- year sentence suspended for two years.

Spence (61) is also the nephew of late UVF leader Gusty Spence and was once kneecapped by Shankill Butcher Lenny Murphy for disobeying orders.

Last night Mr Pankhurst told Sunday Life he knew Spence was involved in the conflict but was not aware he served jail time.

Bobby Spence

"I know him as a personal friend and fellow bandsman but the past is the past," he said.

"He doesn't eulogise what happened in the way republicans and Sinn Fein do and I am happy for him to sign my nomination papers."

Following his release from prison Spence kept his head down until he found himself back in the headlines for defying a Parades Commission ruling.

In August 2015 he and four others walked free from court with suspended sentences on 11 counts of breaching the Parades Commission determination at Twaddell Avenue in north Belfast.

Spence (circled) and his fellow members of the Pride of Ardoyne flute band repeatedly flouted the ruling, which district judge Amanda Henderson described as "flagrant breaches of the law''.

Police officers treat Phoebe Clawson after she was struck by a car driven by Aughey in Ardoyne in July 2015

Convicted along with him were Belfast men James Cosby (26) from Glenbryn Road, David Johnston (23) from Westway Crescent, David John Murphy (38) of Berwick Road, and Gary Edwin Wells (27) from Loughview Close.

The court was told the sentences were suspended after references were provided for the men by local councillors and church leaders. Spence was back in court with bandmates in November 2016, again accused of breaching a Parades Commission ruling, this time outside a Catholic church in east Belfast.

They were accused of defying the order by playing Simon & Garfunkel's Sound Of Silence close to St Matthew's Church in the Short Strand.

John Aughey

All had the charges withdrawn after agreeing to be bound over to keep the peace for 12 months.

Last week Mr Pankhurst was forced to defend shamed Orangeman John Aughey signing his nomination papers despite being jailed for running over a teenage girl in his car after a parade in July 2015.

Aughey was found guilty of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily injury, assault causing actual bodily harm and assault.

"John Aughey has been a long-term family friend and neighbour. I thought it nice to ask him to sign my nomination papers," said Mr Pankhurst.

Last year Sunday Life reported how Mark Officer, the loyalist drug dealer who signed nomination papers for Gillian Simpson, Mr Pankhurst's running mate in the Oldpark ward, was a client of a major Catholic drug dealer.

Desy Lindsay was jailed for 14 months for supplying weed and cocaine to others including Officer, who was caught with £1 million of coke belonging to the west Belfast UDA.

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