Sectarian killer is to be set free

Court

Court

A convicted sectarian killer is to be freed from jail after fresh charges of attempted murder were dropped, it was confirmed today.

Sentence Review Commissioners directed William John Lindsay’s immediate re-release at a hearing in Maghaberry Prison, his lawyer said.

Their decision follows the withdrawal of a case against the 52-year-old over a suspected Stanley knife attack in north Belfast last year.

Lindsay, of Ardoyne Road in the city, was jailed for the murder of Catholic voluntary worker Peter McTasney back in 1991.

He had been released on licence, but returned to custody after being charged with attempted murder, threats to kill and possession of an offensive weapon.

The allegations related to the suspected knifing of a man in the Ardoyne area in August 2016.

The original decision to revoke his licence was based on an assertion that he had breached conditions by becoming a danger to the public.

But at Belfast Magistrates’ Court last month a Public Prosecution Service (PPS) representative confirmed the charges were not being pursued.

Lindsay was among a group of loyalist prisoners released in July 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

He had been jailed for the UVF murder of Mr McTasney, 26, at the victim’s home in Bawnmore, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim.

Loyalists armed with a gun and sledgehammer opened fire in the presence of their target’s three-year-old daughter, who was also injured.

A Police Ombudsman report identified the killing as one of 10 linked to a UVF unit operating out of the Mount Vernon estate in north Belfast.

Suspected paramilitary commander-turned supergrass Gary Haggarty is now also charged with the murder as part of a catalogue of terror-related crime.

Lindsay was also convicted of involvement in an attack on a republican inmate whose ear was partially bitten off at Crumlin Road jail.

Defence lawyers mounted an urgent bid to get him back out of jail after the fresh prosecution was dropped.

Solicitor Katie McAllister, of Madden and Finucane, confirmed the outcome of today’s hearing before the Sentence Review Commissioners.

She said: “They, as had the PPS before them, recognised that there was no credible evidence against our client and directed his immediate release from prison.”

Ms McAllister stressed how the allegations resulted in Lindsay spending the equivalent of a sixteen month sentence in custody.

She added: “It is in now incumbent on the PPS and on the PSNI to put in place measures whereby reviews of directions to prosecute in cases where there is clearly tenuous evidence are taken at a much earlier stage.”