Trial decision due in case of republican charged with aiding McConville murder

Trial decision due in case of republican charged with aiding McConville murder
BelfastTelegraph.co.uk
Published 29/06/2016

A decision on whether a veteran republican should stand trial for involvement in the murder of a mother-of-10, could be made next week, a court has heard.

Ivor Bell, 79, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast is charged with aiding and abetting the kidnap, killing and secret burial of Jean McConville in 1972.

He is further charged with membership of the IRA.

District Judge Amanda Henderson told Belfast Magistrates she would consider whether the evidence, heard during a two day preliminary enquiry, was strong enough to return the accused for trial.

The judge said: “There have been lengthy enough submissions made.

“I will try to get a decision through by next Thursday (July 7).

“If the defendant is to be returned for trial then arrangements can be made.”

Mrs McConville, a widow, was dragged from her home in the Divis flats by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army in Belfast – an allegation discredited by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home. The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed to police in the Irish Republic.

Mrs McConville became one of the Disappeared and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth, by a member of the public.

Nobody has been convicted for her murder, one of the most notorious of the region’s bloody Troubles.

Part of the Crown’s case against Bell is based on a tape police secured from an oral history archive collated by Boston College.

Academics interviewed a series of former republican and loyalist paramilitaries for their Belfast Project on the understanding the accounts of the Troubles would remain unpublished until their deaths.

But that undertaking was rendered meaningless when the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) won a court battle in the US to secure the recordings.

It is alleged one of the interviews was given by Bell – a claim the defendant denies.

Throughout proceedings, grey-haired mustachioed Bell, who was prosecuted in 2014 and denies all charges, sat in the dock beside a single prison guard, listening impassively. He was dressed in a dark coat and dark shirt.

Just a few feet away, in the public gallery, were members of the McConville family including some of the widow’s children who have spearheaded a lengthy campaign for justice.

The case was adjourned for mention on July 5.

The McConville family declined to speak outside court.

Boston College ‘misled’ paramilitaries over tapes confidentiality

Boston College ‘misled’ paramilitaries over tapes confidentiality
newsletter.co.uk
28 June 2016

Former paramilitaries were misled into thinking they could reveal their activities to an American university study with complete impunity, a court has heard.

But a librarian from Boston College insisted any impression interview tapes would remain confidential during their lifetime was down to an oversight in a contract they signed.

Dr Robert O’Neill was giving evidence at a preliminary inquiry to decide if veteran Belfast republican Ivor Bell is to stand trial over the killing of Disappeared victim Jean McConville.

Bell, 79, from Ramoan Gardens in the city, denies charges of soliciting to murder connected to an allegation that he encouraged or persuaded others to kill the mother of 10.

Mrs McConville was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972 after being wrongly accused of being an informer.

Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried.

Her body was discovered on a Co Louth beach in 2003.

The case against Bell centres on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers involved in the Boston College history project with ex-paramilitaries about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict.

Although it was believed transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.

It is alleged that Bell was one of the project interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her.

His legal team claim the case against him should be dismissed.

During a hearing at Belfast Magistrates’ Court to examine the strength of the evidence Dr O’Neill, Burns Librarian at the College, appeared by video link from Boston.

He confirmed a contract between the college and the project director guaranteed confidentiality only to the extent American law allowed.

But the court heard separate “donor agreements” with interviewees gave them the impression nothing would be disclosed without their consent prior to their deaths.

Cross-examining the librarian, Barry Macdonald QC, for Bell, asked: “Do you now see how they were all misled, those people who were interviewed?”

Dr O’Neill replied: “Yes.”

He also accepted counsel’s suggestion they received guarantees that should never have been given, leaving them feeling “free to make all sorts of claims in respect to themselves and other with impunity”.

The librarian agreed it was accurate to say interviewees believed there was no prospect of facing prosecution or having their accounts tested during their lifetimes.

Challenged on why he did nothing to correct the impression, he responded: “It was an oversight on my part and I will accept responsibility for that, that the agreement with the interviewees did not include the restriction ‘to the extent American law allows’.”

During the hearing it also emerged that he received 25 per cent of the royalties from journalist and author Ed Moloney’s book ‘Voices from the Grave’, based on Brendan Hughes’ and David Ervine’s contributions to the oral history project at Boston before their deaths.

Continuing with questioning, Mr Macdonald contended that interviewees were effectively induced into giving accounts of their involvement because they felt there would be no come back.

“Do you see how interviewees might have been led to believe by the terms of this agreement that they could, if they wanted to, settle old scores, or implicate people in things they hadn’t done, or implicate themselves in things they hadn’t done,” the barrister asked.

“In other words, the contracts themselves permitted the state of affairs which led to these interviews being inherently unreliable.”

Although Dr O’Neill accepted there may have been misunderstandings, he stressed that there could never be absolute confidentiality.

He went on: “It was widely believed that these stories were going to go to the grave.

“With the interviewees’ accounts there was an opportunity to record their stories, the entire project was motivated on the basis of recording as much as possible, the stories of participants in the paramilitary movement.”

Pressing him to confirm the donor agreement oversight was completely innocent, Mr Macdonald put it to the librarian that the consequences for those taking part could be “dire”.

He continued: “The question arises whether this was not inadvertent or accidental, but a deliberate omission in order to encourage all those interviewees to speak on the understanding that there would be no implications for them during their lifetimes.

“In other words it was deliberately done to loosen their tongues.”

Dr O’Neill replied: “I can only say it was not deliberate on my side.”

The hearing continues.

The PSNI, PPS, US DoJ and Boston College: A Long Game of Blindfolded Darts

A Long Game of Blindfolded Darts
Chris Bray
Chris Bray Blog
24 June 2016

I’ve been arguing for years that the Belfast Project subpoenas aren’t an example of a police investigation, but rather offer proof that police in Northern Ireland are engaged in a theatrical performance and refusing to perform real detective work. Events in Belfast courts this week prove the point.

First, in a hearing regarding an American subpoena requested by the PSNI for Belfast Project interviews conducted with Anthony McIntyre, lawyers for McIntyre argued that the International Letter of Request (ILOR) sent by the British government to the U.S. government was “replete with errors, and that’s putting it mildly.” Among the errors alleged by McIntyre’s lawyers were claims made in the ILOR that McIntyre had previously been convicted for offenses for which he had actually been acquitted or never charged.

In response, lawyers for the police and the prosecution service made no argument at all, neither conceding nor rejecting the claim; instead, they told the judges hearing the case that they would have to look into it. “Counsel for the respondents were unable to confirm the claim, insisting archives would have to be checked,” the Irish Newsreported (emphasis added). Here’s what comes next in that newspaper story:

Lord Justice Weatherup, sitting with Lord Justice Weir, described the situation as unsatisfactory.

“It’s incredible; you have sent a letter to America… and you don’t know whether it was in respect of an offence for which he’s already been acquitted,” he said.

So the Police Service of Northern Ireland initiated a request for the U.S. Department of Justice to subpoena an academic archive in Boston, and now — now, after making an international request for legal assistance in a supposed criminal investigation — have begun to look into the factual background their own case. Oh, yeah, man, we’ll go, like, check the archives and stuff.

The laziness, shoddiness, indifference to professional standards, and general halfassedness scream across an ocean at the American prosecutors who are playing along with this nonsense. These worthless idiots sent off an ILOR, then started to think about what they were up to. (A pattern emerges, by the way.) I’m not in Belfast to check, but I assume the PSNI’s detectives drool on themselves and shit their pants.

Meanwhile, in another hearing over a different set of Belfast Project interviews, a different judge heard a legal challenge to the evidence obtained in the case of Ivor Bell, who is accused of aiding and abetting in the 1972 murder of Jean McConville. The federal appeals court in Boston, narrowing the decision of a district court judge, ordered that only two interviews with the interview subject known as “Z” — who is alleged, but not proven, to be Bell — be handed over to the PSNI. In fact, Bell’s lawyers claim, authorities in Belfast are attempting to go to court with several more of the Belfast Project’s “Z” interviews, evidence obtained far beyond the scope of the American court order.

Of course, Bell was charged in early 2014; now, two and a half years later, prosecutors in Belfast can’t even get their evidence into the courtroom for a preliminary inquiry, much less a trial.

One week, two shambles.

Meanwhile, note the incredible statement at the conclusion of the Irish News story on the McIntyre hearing, linked above: A lawyer for the PSNI’s chief constable “suggested PSNI officers who will be in Boston on Saturday to collect other materials could also bring back the McIntyre recordings and deposit them, still sealed, with the court.

The PSNI has gone back to Boston, in at least one other international request for a subpoena that has not yet been disclosed. They keep churning up garbage with their shoddy trips to Boston, and they keep going back to Boston.

Will anyone ever restrain this idiots? They’re embarrassing themselves, damaging the legitimacy of Northern Ireland’s political institutions, wasting the DOJ’s time, angering Belfast judges, and making a clown show of the rule of law. And the U.S. government keeps shrugging and typing up the subpoenas.

Ex-IRA man denies bomb attack in new Boston College twist

Ex-IRA man denies bomb attack in new Boston College twist
newsletter.co.uk
23 June 2016

A former IRA man interviewed for an American university project claims he was the victim of a bomb attack for which he is now under investigation, the High Court has heard.

Anthony McIntyre also alleges he was acquitted on a charge of membership of a proscribed organisation that forms part of a police attempt to gain access to his tapes from Boston College.

Senior judges in Belfast have now ordered the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service to clarify the situation and explain how an International Letter of Request (ILOR) for the material wrongly included an erroneous conviction for armed robbery.

McIntyre’s legal bid to stop detectives listening to the tapes has been put on hold until explanations are provided and shared with American authorities.

With the case adjourned until September, PSNI officers due to travel to Boston on Saturday as part of a separate inquiry will not yet be able to take possession of the his recordings.

McIntyre, who is from Belfast but now lives in the Irish Republic, was one of the main researchers in the major project to compile an oral history of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Dozens of loyalists and republicans provided testimonies to Boston College on the understanding their account would only be made public after they died.

But those assurances were dealt a blow when legal battles resulted in police securing transcripts and tapes of interviews given by former IRA woman Dolours Price and high-profile loyalist Winston “Winkie” Rea.

Rea, 65, from Groomsport, Co Down, appeared before a court earlier this month charged with the murders of two Catholic workmen in Belfast more than 25 years ago.

Now the authorities want access to McIntyre’s recorded recollection of his own IRA activities.

A subpoena seeking copies of his interviews has been served on Boston College by the British government.

The move involves an ILOR setting out alleged offences being investigated.

McIntyre’s lawyers have issued judicial review proceedings against the PSNI and PPS for issuing the request letter.

In court on Thursday it emerged that the alleged offences being investigate include a bomb explosion at Rugby Avenue in Belfast in 1976, and an imitation or toy pistol discovered inside a prison where he served time.

Ronan Lavery QC, for McIntyre, claimed: “The ILOR is replete with errors, and that’s putting it mildly.”

Disputing any suggestion that his client was behind the bombing incident, he added: “In relation to the explosion on Rugby Avenue Mr McIntyre (says he) was the victim.”

It was also contended that the former IRA man was acquitted more than 30 years ago of a membership charge that features in the international letter.

Counsel for the respondents were unable to confirm the claim, insisting archives would have to be checked.

Lord Justice Weatherup, sitting with Lord Justice Weir, described the situation as unsatisfactory.

“It’s incredible; you have sent a letter to America … and you don’t know whether it was in respect of an offence for which he’s already been acquitted,” he said.

During the hearing it was accepted that an armed robbery incident for which McIntyre was never convicted was erroneously included in the ILOR.

But judges were told the mistake was brought to the attention of the US court before any decision was taken on releasing the tapes.

Tony McGleenan QC, for the chief constable, contended that McIntyre was raising speculative points that may prove to be groundless.

He suggested PSNI officers who will be in Boston on Saturday to collect other materials could also bring back the McIntyre recordings and deposit them, still sealed, with the court.

However, Lord Justice Weatherup instead directed the PSNI and PPS to first file a statement explaining the issues raised.

Outside court McIntyre’s solicitor, Gavin Booth of KRW Law, claimed the international request process was unlawful and conducted in bad faith.

He added: “The court’s order clearly reflects concerns it has with regard to certain statements which have been made in the ILOR.”

Challenge against Boston College evidence in Jean McConville case

Challenge against Boston College evidence in Jean McConville case
22 June 2016
newsletter.co.uk

Evidence against a veteran republican charged over the killing of Disappeared victim Jean McConville has been unlawfully obtained from America, a court has heard.

Ivor Bell’s lawyer claimed excessive material was disclosed from the Boston College history project in breach of an international treaty.

A legal bid will now be mounted to have the information excluded from a hearing to decide if the 79-year-old should stand trial.

Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, faces charges of soliciting to murder connected to an allegation that he encouraged or persuaded others to kill Mrs McConville.

The victim, a mother of ten, was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972 after being wrongly accused of being an informer.

Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried.

Her body was discovered on a Co Louth beach in 2003.

The case against Bell centres on an interview he allegedly gave to US researchers from Boston College as part of a project with former paramilitaries about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict.

Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.

It is alleged that Bell is one of the Boston interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her.

A voice analyst has been enlisted as part of the case.

The accused – who is currently on bail – denies any role in events surrounding the murder, claiming he was not even in the city at the time.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard that a Federal Court judge in America had ordered disclosure of Z’s interviews was to be limited to only material relating to the Jean McConville case.

Defence lawyer Peter Corrigan argued that the tapes handed over to police went beyond those restrictions.

“That evidence has been unlawfully obtained and should be excluded,” he claimed.

Mr Corrigan told the court that material put to Bell during police interviews was “way beyond the Jean McConville murder”.

“It was unfairly obtained and in clear contravention of an international treaty.”

The charge against Bell is set to be examined at a preliminary inquiry hearing where witnesses can be cross-examined.

Defence lawyers contend that he does not have a case to answer and will attempt to have the prosecution thrown out at that stage.

But following Wednesday’s developments District Judge Amanada Henderson requested further submissions on the lawfulness of the evidence.

Former IRA man McIntyre being investigated over six alleged offences

Former IRA man McIntyre being investigated over six alleged offences
newsletter.co.uk
7 June 2016

A former IRA man who gave interviews for an American university project is being investigated in connection with six alleged offences, the High Court heard today.

Anthony McIntyre is taking legal action in a bid to stop the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service gaining access to his tapes from Boston College.

Senior judges were told he has now been provided with a copy of international letter requesting the recordings – but in a redacted form setting out no details of the suspected crimes.

Lawyers for the PSNI and prosecuting authorities may now seek formal confidentiality through Public Interest Immunity (PII) steps amid fears that full disclosure could compromise the criminal investigation.

McIntyre, who is from Belfast but now lives in the Irish Republic, was one of the main researchers in the major project to compile an oral history of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Dozens of loyalists and republicans provided testimonies to Boston College on the understanding their account would only be made public after they died.

But those assurances were dealt a blow when legal battles resulted in police securing transcripts and tapes of interviews given by former IRA woman Dolours Price and high-profile loyalist Winston “Winkie” Rea.

Rea, 65, from Groomsport, Co Down, appeared before a court on Monday charged with the murders of two Catholic workmen in Belfast more than 25 years ago.

Now the authorities want access to McIntyre’s recorded recollection of his own IRA activities.

A subpoena seeking copies of his interviews has been served on Boston College by the British government.

The move involves an International Letter of Request (ILOR) setting out alleged offences being investigated.

McIntyre’s lawyers have issued judicial review proceedings against the PSNI and PPS for issuing the ILOR.

They claim police are engaged in a “fishing expedition” and insist the recordings of his activities only contain details of crimes for which he has already served a prison sentence.

It was confirmed today that they have been provided with a redacted version of the ILOR.

McIntyre’s barrister, Ronan Lavery QC, said: “The offences themselves are listed, but they aren’t specified in terms of date, or time or place.”

Responding to his concerns, Peter Coll QC, for the PPS, said there may be no option but to seek a certificate for PII from the Secretary of State.

Lord Justice Weatherup, sitting with Lord Justice Weir, decided issues about the redacted letter should be dealt with before the legal challenge continues.

“The explanation for this is incomplete,” he said.

“It can’t be that complicated, it’s based on some ongoing investigation where, if you made disclosure, it would jeopardise that investigation.”

During the hearing Tony McGleenan QC provided an affidavit on behalf of the Chief Constable outlining the reasons for the ILOR redactions.

He said it refers to sensitive, confidential material which, if revealed, could impede the police probe.

The court was told up to six alleged offences have been identified, with no further details provided.

Mr McGleenan added: “The first step would be to determine whether the Chief Constable wants to assert the PII claim.

“If we do, that will require a ministerial certificate in respect of those redactions.”

But Mr Lavery claimed inconsistencies between the public interest concerns and a separate reason cited of preventing possible destruction or tampering with the requested material.

Following submissions the case was adjourned to next week for a further review.

Ex-IRA man interviewed by Boston College investigated by PSNI

Ex-IRA man interviewed by Boston College investigated by PSNI
Anthony McIntyre faces criminal inquiry over six alleged offences, court hears
The Irish Times
Tue, Jun 7, 2016

A former IRA man interviewed for a US university project is being investigated in connection with six alleged offences, the High Court in Belfast has heard.

Anthony McIntyre is taking legal action in a bid to stop the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service gaining access to his tapes from Boston College.

Senior judges were told he has now been provided with a copy of international letter requesting the recordings – but in a redacted form setting out no details of the suspected crimes.

Lawyers for the PSNI and prosecuting authorities may now seek formal confidentiality through Public Interest Immunity (PII) steps amid fears that full disclosure could compromise the criminal investigation.

Mr McIntyre, who is from Belfast but now lives in Drogheda, Co Louth, was one of the main researchers in the major project to compile an oral history of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Dozens of loyalists and republicans provided testimonies to Boston College on the understanding their account would only be made public after they died.

But those assurances were dealt a blow when legal battles resulted in police securing transcripts and tapes of interviews given by former IRA woman Dolours Price and high-profile loyalist Winston “Winkie” Rea.

Mr Rea (65), from Groomsport, Co Down, appeared before a court on Monday charged with the murders of two Catholic workmen in Belfast more than 25 years ago.

The authorities now want access to Mr McIntyre’s recorded recollection of his own IRA activities.

A subpoena seeking copies of his interviews has been served on Boston College by the British government.

The move involves an International Letter of Request (ILOR) setting out alleged offences being investigated.

Mr McIntyre’s lawyers have issued judicial review proceedings against the PSNI and PPS for issuing the ILOR.

They claim police are engaged in a “fishing expedition” and insist the recordings of his activities only contain details of crimes for which he has already served a prison sentence.

Following submissions, the case was adjourned to next week for a further review.

Boston Tapes: Police may seek immunity over interviews

Boston Tapes: Police may seek immunity over interviews
By Will Leitch
BBC News NI
7 June 2016

The PSNI may apply to keep the reasons they want access to some of the Boston Tapes a secret, a court has heard.

Lawyers acting for a former IRA member were given a heavily redacted copy of the legal document on Monday.

But after demands were made to see the full version on Tuesday, the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service said they could apply for a Public Interest Immunity Certificate.

This would mean that the sections would remain blacked out.

At the High Court on Tuesday, lawyers for Anthony McIntyre said they wanted to see the full document, which lists the reasons why the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service want to seize some of the tapes.

Mr McIntyre was one of the main researchers who worked on the Boston College project.

The project contains candid interviews with loyalist and republican paramilitaries and were held in a library at Boston College.

In 2011, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) began a legal bid to gain access to the tapes.

Mr McIntyre’s lawyers are taking legal action to prevent his interviews being handed over to police.

On Monday the loyalist Winston “Winkie” Rea, 65, denied charges of murder dating back more than 20 years at Belfast Magistrates Court.

The charges were brought after the PSNI gained access to tapes of interviews Mr Rea had given to the Boston College “Belfast Project”.

Ulster loyalist’s murder case ‘cynical attempt’ to protect police, court told

Ulster loyalist’s murder case ‘cynical attempt’ to protect police, court told
Henry McDonald Ireland correspondent
the Guardian
Monday 6 June 2016 14.57 BST

The prosecution of a veteran Ulster loyalist in connection with two murders is designed to protect the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s image among Irish-Americans, it has been alleged.

Winston ”Winkie” Rea appeared at Belfast magistrates court on Monday charged with murdering two Catholics in the city in 1989 and 1991.

A fresh investigation into the deaths was prompted by information contained on tapes the PSNI obtained from Boston College in the US.

Ed Moloney, the award-winning journalist and director of Boston College’s ”Belfast Project”, in which ex-IRA and Ulster Volunteer Force members gave frank testimony about their role in Troubles-related violence, described Rea as the “token Prod” arrested for political reasons only.

Rae stands accused of murdering John Devine in 1989 at his home in west Belfast and taxi driver John O’Hara, who was shot dead while answering a bogus phone call in 1991.

Other charges brought against Rea include the attempted murders of Malachy McAllister in Belfast on 2 October 1988, and of an unknown male in the city’s Falls Road area sometime between 1 January 1971 and 23 February 1973.

He also faces counts of membership of a proscribed organisation on dates between 1973 and 1996, possession of an AK47 assault rifle, three revolvers, a 9mm Browning pistol and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

A further charge of possessing information useful to terrorists relates to claims that between 1984 and 1986 he had documents containing the identification and address details of suspected members of the IRA.

The 65-year-old denied all 32 charges put to him by PSNI detectives. Under questioning from a defence lawyer, a detective admitted that Rea made no admissions to any of the charges brought against him.

Officers from the PSNI’s legacy unit, which is tasked with investigating unsolved crimes from the Northern Ireland Troubles, arrested Rea at his home in Groomsport, County Down, last Tuesday.

The veteran loyalist was a one-time member of terror group the Red Hand Commando, a satellite organisation of the larger and oldest pro-union paramilitary movement, the Ulster Volunteer Force. He was one of dozens of Ulster loyalists and Irish republicans who were interviewed by researchers from Boston College’s Belfast Project. They gave full and frank testimonies about their role in paramilitary violence during the Troubles on condition that their taped interviews would not be made public until they were dead.

Moloney said charging Rea was part of a “cynical attempt by the PSNI to show even-handedness in their pursuit of the Boston College tapes.”

The author of the award-winning A Secret History of the IRA and Belfast Project director said: “Available evidence shows that the PSNI only moved against Mr Rea – nearly four years after the first subpoena was served against Dolours Price (IRA Old Bailey bomber arrested in connection with the murder of widow Jean McConville in 1972) – when the force’s handling of the Boston College archive was criticised by establishment figures in Irish-America for being one-sided.

“Mr Rea is in the unfortunate position of being the ‘token Prod’, to be sacrificed to protect the PSNI’s image and to preserve establishment Irish-American support for the force,” Moloney said. “The decision to prosecute Mr Rea was taken for solely political reasons.”

Moloney said Monday’s court case would further undermine efforts to set up a truth and reconciliation process to deal with the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

“The damage done by the PSNI to any credible effort to tell the truth about the Troubles is now beyond calculation, thanks to this blinkered pursuit of alleged activists, both state and non-state, via criminal prosecution.

“Who in their right minds would contribute to a truth-telling process in Northern Ireland in such circumstances? Thanks to the PSNI it seems Northern Ireland is forever condemned to be haunted and cursed by unanswered questions from the past.”

Granting bail, district judge Fiona Bagnall agreed to excuse Rea from attending the next hearing in eight weeks’ time. She released him on a £500 surety and banned him from any contact with prosecution witnesses.

Rea must also notify police if he plans to be away from his home address for more than 24 hours.

Loyalist in wheelchair charged with Troubles murders released on bail

Loyalist in wheelchair charged with Troubles murders released on bail
BelfastTelegraph.co.uk
Published 06/06/2016

A wheelchair-bound veteran loyalist has been released on bail after appearing in court charged with two Troubles murders.

Winston “Winkie” Rea is accused of murdering John Benedict Devine in the Fallswater Street area of West Belfast on July 23 1989, and John Joseph Gerard O’Hara in the Dunluce Avenue area of South Belfast on April 17 1991.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard the 65-year-old from Springwell Crescent in Groomsport, Co Down faces a total of 12 charges for offences allegedly carried out between 1971 and 1991.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Detective Inspector Neil McGuinness said he believed he could connect the accused.

Rea was interviewed by police some 32 times and made no admissions, according to his defence lawyer.

He made a statement of denial in his final interview, the lawyer added.

Grey-haired Rea, who was dressed in a dark suit with red checked open neck shirt was pushed into the dock in a wheelchair.

He suffers from a raft of ailments, the court was told.

Only one charge, membership of the proscribed Red Hand Commando, was read out and when asked if he understood what was being said, Rea tapped tapped his ear signalling that he could not hear.

The loyalist was moved further into the dock where he pressed his ear against the toughened glass.

The charge was put a second time and he nodded.

Throughout the brief hearing, the high profile loyalist held on to the dock and listened intently, occasionally glancing up towards the public gallery where relatives were seated in the public gallery.

Just a few seats away were relations of both alleged victims.

A prosecutor said bail was agreed subject to strict conditions including surrendering his passport to the court, residing at a known address and notifying police if he is away from his home address for more than 24 hours.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall released Rea on his own bail of £500 and adjourned the case until August 1.

The judge also excused Rea from his next court appearance because of his failing health.

A fresh investigation into the two deaths was prompted by information contained on tapes the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) obtained from Boston College in the US.

In 2001, the college in Massachusetts commenced a five-year oral history project aimed at documenting perspectives on the Troubles from those involved in the conflict.

Former paramilitaries, both republican and loyalist, were interviewed about their roles in the 40 years of violence which blighted Northern Ireland on the understanding that their accounts would not be made public until after their deaths.

But subsequent court rulings in the US rendered that undertaking useless after the PSNI was awarded custody of the tapes for investigative purposes.