Northern Ireland news

'Hitman' Frankie Lanigan not eligible for early release

Frankie 'Studs' Lanigan in the early 1990s claimed he was a target of loyalist and republican paramilitaries

A BELFAST man, believed to have been a 'hitman for hire' for paramilitaries while on the run for a murder outside a Dungannon nightclub, will not be eligible for early release under the Good Friday Agreement.

Frankie 'Studs' Lanigan shot dead John Stephen Knocker in a rage after the 22-year-old got the better of him in a fight.

The 56-year-old - who spent six years in the Republic fighting extradition - was yesterday found guilty of the May 1998 murder.

During multiple challenges, Lanigan claimed his life would be at risk from loyalist and republican paramilitaries if he was extradited to the north and that on the night of Mr Knocker's shooting, he was in fact the intended target.

However following the Diplock non-jury trial in Belfast yesterday Mr Justice Horner said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of Lanigan's guilt.

Prior to his capture he had been living in Dublin under an assumed name and working as a barber.

A seasoned gunman and former member of the INLA, Lanigan has been linked to a number of paramilitary-style killings.

They include the 1998 murder of drug dealer Brendan Campbell. The killing was claimed at the time by Direct Action Against Drugs, an IRA cover name.

He has also been linked to the killing of Kevin McAlorum who was shot dead outside a primary school in Belfast in 2004.

As the May 1998 murder of Mr Knocker falls just one month outside the date of eligibility, Lanigan does not qualify for early release.

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Northern Ireland news