Ex-UVF boss Gary Haggarty’s guilty pleas to five murders marks a major milestone for victims, a senior police officer has said.
The former loyalist paramilitary commander turned supergrass has pleaded guilty to 200 terrorist offences, as part of his deal with the State to give evidence against fellow terrorists.
His litany of crimes include five murders, one aiding and abetting murder, five attempted murders, 23 counts of conspiracy to murder, a number of offences under the Terrorism Act including directing terrorism and being a member of a proscribed organisation, namely the UVF, four kidnaps, hi-jackings, false imprisonment, possession of firearms and ammunition, and possession of, and making, explosives.
Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell, from PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch, said: “The Police Service has been investigating a series of murders and other serious crimes by the UVF in north Belfast since 2010, following investigations and reports by the Police Ombudsman and the Historical Enquiries Team.
“Our thoughts today are first and foremost with the victims and their families especially those murdered by Gary Haggarty; namely Sean McParland who was shot in front of his young grandchildren in February 1994 and died as a result eight days later; Eamon Fox and Gary Convie who were shot dead as they ate their lunch in their car in May 1994, Sean McDermott who was shot dead in August 1994 and John Harbinson who was attacked on May 18, 1997.”
Gary Haggarty has also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the murder of Peter McTasney, who was shot dead in his home in front of his three-year-old daughter in February 1991.
Det Supt Campbell added: “It has been a very long, arduous and painful process for these families and I hope today’s proceedings have made a significant contribution to the process of ultimately bringing closure to all the families of the victims of Mount Vernon UVF during that time.” Stating that he understood the frustratioin of the victims’ families over the length of time the process has taken, Det Supt Campbell said it was “important to take the time to get it right”.
He added: “The PSNI remains committed to moving forward and working with the PPS in relation to the next stages of the investigation into Mount Vernon UVF and others who were involved with committing these offences.