The UDA godfathers running a sectarian murder campaign that claimed 19 lives were named by loyalist killer Gary Blair in statements to police made under caution.
But neither Billy McFarlane or Robert Smyth were charged despite evidence linking them to numerous atrocities including a fatal 1992 attack on Sinn Fein member Malachy Carey in Ballymoney.
At the time the veteran UDA members were ‘brigadier’ and ‘military commander’ of the terror gang’s feared North Antrim/East Londonderry unit.
Statements from Blair unearthed by Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson reveal how he identified the pair to detectives after admitting driving the getaway car, registered in Smyth’s name, which was used in the Carey killing.
The documents form part of the Operation Greenwich investigation into 19 UDA murders in the north-west between 1989 and 1993 which found “collusive behaviours” between some police and paramilitaries.
The Ombudsman only identified individuals by letters, Sunday Life has added their names in brackets.
The Ombudsman reveals: “Person R (Gary Blair) told police during interviews that Person S was the gunman. He added that Person B (Billy McFarlane) sanctioned and organised the attack, and he purchased the car used in it from Person K (Robert Smyth).
“This information led to police arresting B (McFarlane) and S. My investigators have been unable to establish why Person K (Smyth) was not arrested.”
Blair went on to provide further details about the Carey murder, again highlighting McFarlane and Smyth’s key roles.
The Ombudsman added: “Person R (Blair) informed police that Person B (McFarlane) asked would he take part in a ‘wee run’ for him on 12 December 1992. He agreed, adding that he knew he was being asked to assist in a ‘hit.’
“On 11 December 1992, Person B (McFarlane) instructed him to pick up Person S the next day and drive to Ballymoney. The following lunchtime he purchased the black Ford Granada car to be used in the attack from Person K (Smyth) for £550.”
After the Carey murder Blair told detectives that McFarlane phoned him to inquire whether the attack had been a success.
Explaining why the UDA leader was not charged, the Ombudsman said: “Persons B (McFarlane) and S were both arrested but denied being involved in the murder.
“Police did not charge either of them due to lack of evidence. The reluctance of a number of witnesses to participate in identification parades did not assist the RUC investigation.”
However, the Ombudsman did raise questions about why Robert Smyth was not arrested in connection with the Carey killing, saying: “My investigators have been unable to establish why police did not arrest Person K (Smyth) about the sale of the black Ford Granada car on the day of the murder.
“Person K (Smyth) was regarded by police as a member of the North West UDA/UFF and was arrested on suspicion of a number of other attacks referred to in this public statement.”
Gary Blair was sentenced to life in prison in 1993 for the murder of Malachy Carey. He served almost eight years before being released early in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
Despite the 53-year-old’s terror conviction he joined the DUP and for a time was a prominent party figure in Ballymoney.
Blair is heavily involved in Ulster-Scots cultural programmes in north Antrim and remains close to several UDA figures in the area despite identifying its leaders to police after his arrest.
Billy McFarlane, the paramilitary boss pinpointed as “organising” the Malachy Carey murder, was ousted during an internal coup in 2013 over allegations of stolen money.
He was previously identified in court documents, alongside Robert Smyth, as being a loyalist leader involved in multiple murders in the northwest.
At a tarfff sentencing of Greysteel killer Stephen Irwin in 2008, Lord Justice Kerr said Robert Smyth was said by some of the Greysteel defendants in police interviews to be the Military Commander for the North West UFF while McFarlane was referred to as the ‘Brigadier’ who ‘ran the UFF’.