Two Catholic Workers murdered by UVF for ‘pure sectarianism’

Two Catholic workers were murdered by the UVF in north Belfast for “sheer sectarianism”, a supergrass loyalist has told a court.

Giving evidence at a double murder trial at Belfast Crown Court, Gary Haggarty also claimed the alleged gunman was “unfortunate” he did not kill a third man.

The claims were made by a former UVF man turned co-conspirator Hagarty during the trial of James Stuart Smythe, 57, of Forthriver Link in Belfast for the murders of Eamonn Fox and Gary Convey.

Smith is charged with two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, possession of a firearm and being a member of a banned organisation, the UVF.

Smyth denied all five charges.

Mr Convie and Mr Fox were sitting in a parked car on a construction site when they were shot and killed by a gunman standing in a nearby playground off North Queen Street in May 1994.

There was a heavy police presence at Laganside Crown Court on Monday morning as Haggarty prepared to give evidence at the start of the third week of the trial.

The 51-year-old was given a reduced jail term after admitting more than 500 terror offences, including five murders, but was released in 2018 just four months after serving six-and-a-half years for providing information on other terror suspects.

Questioned by the prosecution over the murders of Mr Fox and Mr Convey in court on Monday, Haggarty described his role as breaching the fence, moving weapons and wishing the gunman “good luck” as he left him to “do what he knew that had to be done. Done”.

Haggarty said he first joined the UVF in early 1991 and became an informer for the then RUC special branch police force in about 1993.

He said his relationship with the special branch lasted until 2004, when he said they “decided I was no longer useful to them”.

In 1994 he said he joined the UVF's 3rd Battalion, Tiger's Bay, and operated alongside then-commander Mark Haddock.

Haggarty said Haddock asked him to breach the fence near a playground on North Queen Street, but insisted he did not know it was for murder, arguing it could have been for theft.

He went on to detail moving a bag containing two Sten machine guns and a .38 pistol from Haddock's house to his mother's house, and later supervised a test firing of one of the Stens the night before the two workers were shot.

He said he realized assassinations were being planned after he was asked to supervise the test firing and take a day off work.

Haggarty told the court he told the branch's specialist operators about the gun's travel times for the test firing and expected police to set up a vehicle checkpoint, adding that this would delay the test firing and give him time to “learn more”.

On the morning of the murders, he said Haddock, Smyth and other UVF members gathered first at his home and then at another member's home before setting off.

He described Smyth's behavior as “a bit nervous”, adding: “I think he was a bit nervous.”

The men parted ways with Hagarty claiming that he had driven Smith to close off the proposed point of attack and wished him luck before leaving.

He said the UVF did not claim responsibility for the killings for two weeks, saying that while this was said to have tried to stop immediate arrests, he believed “it was because they didn't know the names of the people in the car. covering their backs.”

Haggarty said he and Haddock, along with “some of the usual suspects,” were arrested after the killings and released several days later.

He went to the Grove Tavern for a “quick talk” and said there was a tradition of keeping a kitten so UVF members could “go for a drink” after being arrested.

He said he saw Smyth at another bar and they talked about the shootings.

“He was unhappy that he didn't get the guy on the back,” he said, referring to Witness A.

“He called out the UVF, tripped and fell, complaining that he had scraped his knees.”

Asked what was the motive for the attack, Haggarty said: “Pure sectarianism … they wouldn't have been considered credible targets … just two Catholic men who went to work and didn't come home.”

Defense barrister Michael Borrelli KC told him about Haggarty's background, saying he was a “violent thug” and a terrorist, which he agreed with.

Mr Borrelli also suggested he was a sadist, which Haggarty disagreed with.

Haggarty said he had been involved in several so-called punitive attacks, adding: “It's not nice, but that's the way it was at the time … the UVF lived outside the normal norms of society.

“It would be better if there was no need.

“I'm a dangerous person… it doesn't mean I'm not telling the truth.”

Mr. Borrelli told Haggarty that, under the terms of his plea deal with the state, he had to testify against Smyth.

Hagarty insisted the information he had given was “accurate” and “true”.

“I wouldn't put it any other way,” he added.

The hearing continues.