‘Loyalist supergrass’ delays trial over murder of Magherafelt man

Murder scene of Gary Convie and Eamon Fox
Murder scene of Gary Convie and Eamon Fox

Any trial over the historic murders of two Catholic workmen could be delayed until 2016 due to the involvement of a loyalist supergrass, a court heard last week.

A lawyer for defendants Mark Campbell and James Smyth hit out at the time being taken to deal with their cases because of the alleged dependence on evidence from former terror boss Gary Haggarty.

The pair are each charged with the double killing of Gary Convie from Magherafelt and Eamon Fox in north Belfast in May 1994.

Both victims, aged 24 and 44, were gunned down as they sat eating lunch in a car at a North Queen Street building site.

Campbell, 43, of Canning Place, Belfast, and 48-year-old Smyth, from Forthriver Link in the city, are also jointly charged with attempting to murder a third man, Donal Laverty, in the same attack and possessing a Sten submachine gun and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

They were arrested and charged earlier this year by detectives investigating a campaign of murder and serious crime committed by the Ulster Volunteer Force.

As the two accused appeared together in the dock at Belfast Magistrates’ Court today, a prosecution lawyer requested another four weeks to provide an update.

The case was linked to ongoing criminal proceedings against Haggarty, the judge was told.

Last month it was revealed that the 42-year-old alleged former UVF commander-turned assisting offender is facing a record 212 charges, including five counts of murder, dozens of conspiracy to murder and directing terrorism offences.

Around 10,000 pages of evidence have been compiled in a huge prosecutorial undertaking against the loyalist now living at a secret location in England.

But Campbell and Smyth’s solicitor argued today that they were facing undue delay due to the alleged prioritising of proceedings against the so-called supergrass.

John Greer said: “It was indicated recently in a bail application that Gary Haggarty’s case may not be concluded until 2016.”

He claimed all of the evidence against his clients has been gathered.

Haggarty’s statement was taken in October 2013 while forensic work is also complete, Mr Greer said.

Deputy District Judge Philip Mateer responded: “It does seem there’s something unusual going on.

“You’re saying the evidence was taken about a year ago and it could be at least another year?”

Mr Greer continued: “It relies on a supergrass, Mr Gary Haddock.

“The Crown position is they wish his prosecution in the Crown Court to be finalised, but his proceedings haven’t even left the Magistrates Court.”

Resisting his suggestion for a judicial warning to be issued over the alleged delay, Mr Mateer agreed to give the prosecution another four weeks.

But noting the defence “protestations”, he stressed: “There has to be some finality.”