The UVF stole PSNI uniforms and warrant cards in preparation for a post-ceasefire break-in at one of Northern Ireland’s biggest police stations that could have wrecked the peace process.
Loyalist supergrass Gary Haggarty has admitted overseeing the plot that involved members of the terror gang posing as cops to get access to the armoury at the Seapark base near Carrickfergus.
In possession of a map drawn up by a rogue officer that led them straight to the weapons room, the UVF’s intention was to take dozens of police-issue guns and ammunition.
But the burglary — which would have rivalled the IRA’s 2002 break-in at Castlereagh police station — never went ahead because Haggarty tipped off his handlers.
Sunday Life can reveal that the Seapark plot was at the top of the UVF leadership’s agenda for six years between 2001 and 2007.
This was while the organisation was supposedly on ceasefire and at a time when the leader of its PUP political wing David Ervine held an Assembly seat.
Haggarty’s damning Seapark burglary confession is contained in a case file put together by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) that has been seen by this newspaper.
In return for pleading guilty to a record 202 charges, including five murders, and giving evidence against his former UVF colleagues, the 44-year-old has been promised a reduced three-year sentence.
Haggarty, who appeared in public for the first time in six years when he stood in the dock of Belfast Magistrates Court last Monday, has already served that period on remand.
The former UVF south-east Antrim boss is now living under a new identity and armed guard at a safe house in England and will only return to Northern Ireland for future court dates.
Among his admissions is that how on dates between September 2001 and March 2007 he had “a quantity of PSNI uniforms and other PSNI items, a PSNI warrant card, and a diagram of how to access the PSNI armoury at Seapark”.
The indictment goes on to say that “the said articles were in your possession for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism”.
Politicians last night responded to Sunday Life’s bombshell revelations by accusing the authorities of allowing agents to commit “multiple, repeated and terrible crimes.”
SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan wants to know how terror boss Gary Haggarty came to be in possession of PSNI uniforms, warrant cards, and a diagram of how to access the armoury at the sprawling Seapark base.
He said: “These papers raise questions about how the UVF acquired police identification, passes and uniforms in order, allegedly, to raid a munitions store at Seapark.
“This adds another dimension to either what the police allowed to happen or otherwise how police officers were helping the UVF to plan operations.”
During 800 interview tapes and 30,000 pages of transcripts Haggarty named the entire UVF leadership and more than 50 members who he worked with during his 25 years as a paramilitary.
He joined the terror gang in 1991 as a foot soldier in the Mount Vernon estate, before rising through the ranks to become its south-east Antrim commander in 2004.
This was a position he held for three years before being stood down in 2007 after the publication of a Police Ombudsman report that identified him as a long-standing agent.
Haggarty agreed to become a supergrass in 2010 after being charged in connection with the 1997 murder of John Harbinson who was beaten to death by the UVF. Prior to this the loyalist had worked as an informant.
Security sources claim Haggarty was recruited in 1993 while working as a tyre-fitter at a garage on the Shore Road and used his job to bug the cars of dozens of UVF members.
Among the leading loyalists he has agreed to give evidence against in court is the group’s Chief-of-Staff John ‘Bunter’ Graham, its 1st Battalion boss Harry Stockman, and former Shankill ‘A’ Company leader Joe ‘No Neck’ McCaw.
Haggarty would have met the trio regularly at UVF headquarters on the Shankill Road, and is believed to have secretly taped many of their conversations. Another charge which he has confessed to is having covert audio recording devices for terrorist purposes.
Loyalist sources told Sunday Life that this threat of prosecution is currently being used by government officials to force the UVF to declare its intention to disband.
The terror gang had discussed publicly announcing its desire to “leave the stage” on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in July but pulled back at the last minute.
A senior UVF source said: “The big problem the UVF faces is that a lot of the offences Haggarty has named people for occurred after the Good Friday Agreement, the Seapark break-in being one example.
“If anyone is convicted of them they would carry full prison sentences, there would be no early releases.
“We’ve been backed into a corner here and saying we’re going to disband looks like something we might need to do.”