Gary Haggarty told handlers of plot to kill Raymond McCord Jnr, court told

Gary Haggarty

LOYALIST killer turned supergrass Gary Haggarty informed his Special Branch handler about two UVF murders before they were carried out - including the high-profile killing of Raymond McCord Jnr, it has emerged.

The startling admission was made by defence barrister Martin O'Rourke QC, who said that his client - who became a Special Branch agent in 1993 - was entitled to receive a substantial discount for the assistance he gave to police.

Following a two-day hearing, Mr Justice Colton spoke of the "vast amount of material" he wants to consider ahead of sentencing, which will take place in the New Year.

Ahead of Haggarty being informed how long he will spend in prison, his barrister said Haggarty should receive credit for the information he provided to Special Branch regarding the UVF's activities.

This, Mr O'Rourke said, was obtained over the course of over 1,000 interview and included "providing assistance in respect of 55 murders".

After a senior prosecutor told Belfast Crown Court that Haggarty and others carried out "cold, calculated and remorseless acts" during his reign of terror, Haggarty's barrister accepted his client was involved in a "catalogue of atrocious offending" - but spoke of the information he provided to his handlers.

Mr O'Rourke said Haggarty called his Special Branch handlers from jail "to tell them about the plot to kill Raymond McCord". The court heard he both "made and received calls" on his mobile whilst in custody, and "made outgoing calls to Special Branch" on the prison payphone, which Haggarty believed would be monitored, regarding the murder.

Raymond McCord Jnr was taken to a disused quarry in Ballyduff in November 1997 by a group of UVF men who beat him to death. Mr Justice Colton was told that after the murder, Haggarty was told who was involved, which he then passed on to Special Branch.

Mr O'Rourke also said Special Branch were informed of a UVF plot to kill a Catholic taxi driver in the summer of 1994.

Haggarty said he didn't know who the intended target was, but he told Special Branch about the plot, when it was taking place and who was involved.

On June 17, 1994 the UVF murdered taxi driver Gerard Brady, who was shot after picking up two men in Antrim. When Haggarty had a face to face meeting with his handler to ask why they hadn't stopped the car containing the killers, he was told 'we followed the vehicle but lost sight of it.'

Haggarty also claimed that after he was arrested for the February 1994 murder of grandfather Sean McParland, his handler told him not to answer any police questions.

In his 11 years as a police informer, the 45-year old - whose address was given as c/o PSNI Knocknagoney Road, Belfast - told his handlers many details surrounding UVF activity.

This, Mr O'Rourke said, included the location of a caravan park fellow UVF men were hiding in after they beat and kicked John Harbinson to death in Mount Vernon in May 1997.

The barrister added that murder plots against two people in north Belfast were called off due to information provided by Haggarty.

Haggarty also provided police with a key to a weapons hide in the Ross House flats in Mount Vernon - promoting Mr O'Rourke to brand the quality of information provided by Haggarty as "exceptional".

Mr Justice Colton said: "It is clear there is a vast amount of material for me to consider."

Addressing the defendant, the Judge said: "I am not in a position to sentence you today Mr Haggarty. I will give my sentence as soon as possible, but it will be in the New Year."

Mr Justice Colton added: "I will endeavour to do that as soon as possible, so the defendant knows where he stands in relation to his sentence."

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