Northern Ireland

Surveillance operation on LVF suspect Mark ‘Swinger’ Fulton lifted the day before Sean Brown murder

Inquest abandoned due to material being withheld on the grounds of national security as coroner asks for public inquiry

Loyalist leaders Mark Fulton and Billy Wright
Mark Fulton and Billy Wright (Alan Lewis)

A security surveillance operation on a leading loyalist and suspect in the murder of GAA official Sean Brown was lifted the night before the killing, a coroner has been told.

Details emerged as presiding coroner Mr Justice Kinney abandoned the long-running inquest in Belfast and confirmed he would write to Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris to ask for a public inquiry.

He said Mr Brown’s inquest could not continue due to material being withheld by state agencies on the grounds of national security.

The PSNI and MI5 have made applications for multiple redactions to sensitive documents connected to the murder under Public Interest Immunity (PII).



PII certificates are used by state agencies to withhold sensitive or top level security information they do not want in the public domain.

Last week the coroner heard that more than 25 people had been linked by intelligence to the murder, including several state agents.

It also emerged that MI5 has claimed it has “no record of any intelligence” relating to the murder despite launching a spy operation against senior loyalists in Mid Ulster a year before he was killed.

Murdered GAA official Sean Brown
Murdered GAA official Sean Brown Murdered GAA official Sean Brown

Collusion has been suspected by the Brown family and others in the murder.

At earlier hearings it emerged that a suspect in the murder was believed to be a serving member of the Royal Irish Regiment.

It has now emerged that a surveillance operation centred on Mark ‘Swinger’ Fulton, a notorious member of the LVF in Mid Ulster, was lifted a day before before the murder.

Fulton was a close friend of LVF founder Billy Wright and was often seen at the side of the notorious sectarian killer and suspected state agent.

In March 1997 Wright was sentenced to eight years after being tried for intent to pervert the course of justice and making a threat to kill.

According to the Billy Wright Inquiry report Fulton “assumed nominal leadership of the LVF”, however, Wright “continued to be in practice the acknowledged and undisputed leader even when in prison, and he continued to direct operations from his prison cell”.

Fulton, who has been named in court papers as a suspect in the murder of Mr Brown, is thought to have taken his own life Maghaberry Prison in 2002.

Loyalist leaders Mark Fulton and Billy Wright
Mark Fulton and Billy Wright (Alan Lewis)

During Monday’s review hearing Des Fahy KC, who acts for the Brown family, confirmed at the inquest that Fulton had been under surveillance.

“Some information has been provided to the Brown family,” he said.

“They now know that the surveillance of one suspect, Mark Fulton was stopped the night before the murder, before being picked up again the following morning,” he said.

“They now know that one of the suspects identified within the materials was a serving member of the RIR.

“And we know that a further suspect was in possession of a personal protection weapon.”

Mr Fahy said any information provided by state agencies does not go far enough.

“If the initial investigation had been a proper investigation and the suspects whose names are being hidden behind redactions had been brought to justice then none of this secrecy and redaction would have been necessary,” he said.

The scene of Sean Brown's murder
The scene of Sean Brown's murder The scene of Sean Brown's murder

The barrister added: “This is not a legal process where the Brown family has been frustrated because they have not been able to find out the truth about the murder of Sean Brown.

“That’s because, my lord, the truth about what happened is right here in these folders of sensitive material about the murder.”

Mr Fahy said one folder of documents provided to the court and made up of 56 pages, is completely “blacked out”.

Another folder of 15 pages was also completely blacked out.

“The Brown family, who I represent, consider this approach to be an affront to the principles of open justice and to fairness,” he said.

“The truth of what happened to Sean Brown is not some intangible thing far off in the distance, it’s here and available if only the state parties would allow it to be reviewed.

“The obvious question that the Brown family have asked me and I ask on their behalf is ‘what have those state parties got to hide?”

Solicitor Niall Murphy, of KRW Law, said many questions remained unanswered including why M15 sought three PII certificates on the grounds of national security as well as why was surveillance on Mark Fulton lifted the night before the murder.