Northern Ireland

Loyalist Winston ‘Winkie' Rea to appear in court over murders

Veteran loyalist  Winston 'Winkie' Rea 
Veteran loyalist Winston 'Winkie' Rea  Veteran loyalist Winston 'Winkie' Rea 

LEADING loyalist Winston 'Winkie' Rea is expected to appear in Belfast magistrates court on Monday charged with a number of paramilitary-related offences including the sectarian murders of two Catholic men.

The north Down loyalist was arrested on Tuesday and questioned about historic terrorist activity.

The arrest was based on an interview the 65-year-old gave to a researcher for the controversial Boston College, Belfast project headed up by journalist Ed Moloney. 

Rea, was arrested on Tuesday by cold case detectives and questioned about the murders of Catholic man John Devine (37) in July 1989 and the murder of taxi driver John O'Hara in April 1991.

Mr Devine was shot eight times in the head and chest when two gunmen burst into his home on the Fallswater Street area of west Belfast.

A father-of-three, his 13-year-old son was in the house at the time and ran into the street screaming for help, the car used had been hijacked earlier in the Donegall Road area.

Mr Devine's wife only learned of his murder five hours later when she returned from a seaside outing with the couple's two other children.

The Protestant Action Force a cover name used by the UVF claimed the murder. 

John O'Hara (41) was murdered in the Dunluce Avenue area of south Belfast as he went to pick up a fare.

A father-of-five, he was lured to an address that turned out to be an abandoned house.

From the Short Strand area of east Belfast he tried to drive away from the scene but hit several parked cars.

He had only started working for the taxi firm based in the Markets area the night of the murder which the RUC said at the time was completely random in nature.

Following the shooting the owner of the firm said that the gunmen called back laughing that they had killed one of his drivers.

On Thursday cold case detectives applied for an extension to hold Rea until 10pmon Sunday.

It is understood he gave 'no comment' answers throughout his detention. 

However, the information on his Boston taped interview is said to be detailed in nature and gives information about paramilitary events that was previously not in the public domain.

Rea challenged the PSNI's legal bid to seek his Boston college tape, by doing so he identified himself as the interviewee and therefore no voice recognition was sought to connect him to the recording.

Among the other activity discussed on the tape is thought to be the murder of leading loyalist hitman Frankie Curry and the sectarian murder of catholic pensioner Edward McHugh killed in a sectarian attack in 1993.

If convicted Rea, who is in ill health, faces spending two years in jail under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. 

The veteran loyalist was prominent during the peace negotiations and was part of a loyalist delegation that announced the paramilitary ceasefires.