Northern Ireland news

Some of new information released to Police Ombudsman relates to smuggled loyalist weapons

Five men were shot dead at Sean Graham's bookmakers on Belfast's Ormeau Road in February 1992
Connla Young

SOME of the recently discovered information released to the Police Ombudsman relates to a huge cache of arms imported into the north by loyalists.

The shipment included hundreds of deadly Czech-made VZ58 assault rifles which are believed to have later been used to kill more than 70 people.

The haul, which also included semi-automatic pistols, rocket launchers, grenades and ammunition, was divided between the UDA, UVF and Ulster Resistance.

The weapons are believed to have been secretly brought in to the north in late 1987 or early 1988, amid claims British intelligence agents were involved in or aware of the shipment.

The UDA lost the majority of its share during transport after police mounted a checkpoint near Portadown in January 1988.

The weapons had earlier been collected from a farm owned by former RUC man James Mitchell at Glenanne in south Armagh.

Mitchell’s farm was also the base for the notorious Glenanne Gang, which was responsible for dozens of sectarian murders in the 1970s.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire provided detailed background information about the weapons in his 2016 report into 1994 Loughinisland massacre.

In 2015 it emerged that a VZ58, thought to be part of the 1988 haul and used to kill seven Catholic men, was put on display at he British Imperial War Museum.

The gun was used by the UDA to kill five men at Sean Graham Bookmaker's on Belfast’s Ormeau Road in February 1992.

It was also used by the UVF to kill two other Catholic men, Seamus Morris (18) and Peter Dolan (25), in north Belfast in August 1988.

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