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Robinson accused of "hypocrisy" by victim's family

Samuel Tweed (left) went on the run in 1974. Peter Robinson (bottom right) wrote a letter asking for leniency for Tweed. Colm Benstead (top right) holds a photo of his brother Patrick
Connla Young

THE family of a Catholic man murdered by the UDA have reacted angrily after first minister Peter Robinson offered support for a loyalist questioned by police about the ‘romper room’ killing.

Colum Benstead last night accused the DUP leader of "hypocrisy" after he wrote to a judge urging "leniency"for Samuel Tweed.

The 74-year-old from Newtownards was sentenced to two and a half years in jail yesterday for possessing guns and ammunition and escaping from custody in 1974.

He was arrested in 2012 after spending almost 40 years on the run.

In a letter to the judge the DUP leader said Tweed had "shown remorse" and that he was "urging leniency in this particular and unusual case'."

Tweed is believed to have been a key member of the notorious UDA Baker/McCreery gang which was responsible for the mass murder of innocent Catholics in the 1970s.

Tweed was one of three men arrested in February this year by police investigating the brutal ‘romper-room’ murder of Short Strand man Pat Benstead in Belfast in December 1972.

All three were later released unconditionally.

Mr Benstead’s death was described by police at the time as a "grisly, revolting murder" carried out by "sadistic fiends."

He had been shot twice in the head and a cross had been burned into his back alongside the letters ‘IRA’ and the number ‘4’ - a reference to the UDA’s savage G4 unit in east Belfast.

The gang is believed to have killed up to 22 people including eight in ‘romper room’ attacks.

Colum Benstead attended yesterday’s court hearing when it emerged that Mr Robinson, along with east Belfast MLA Sammy Douglas and Strangford MP Jim Shannon, had written letters of support for Tweed.

"To say the least it was astounding given this man was at large for so long," he said.

"Given their stance with regard to other issues, it smacks of blatant hypocrisy.

"I was shocked that people who hold themselves up as the gatekeepers for law and order should come out and have so much praise for this man."

Mr Benstead said it "beggars belief" that Tweed remained at large for so long and believes he was a security force agent.

"I believe he was involved in the murder of my brother and a large amount of other murders including members of his own community," he said.

No-one from the DUP was available for comment.

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