Northern Ireland news

Winston Rea: Trial of senior loyalist accused of setting up innocent Catholics for murder hears of disgust at Shankill Butchers

Winston 'Winkie' Rea (69)

SENIOR loyalist Winston 'Winkie' Rea, accused of setting up innocent Catholics to be killed, was disgusted by the sectarian torture and murder of the Shankill Butchers, according to a tape recording allegedly detailing his own paramilitary activities.

In an interview prosecution lawyers claim he gave for an oral history project about the Troubles, he said murder should be swift with a bullet to the back of the head "...but you don't butcher people".

The 69-year-old is alleged to be the voice of "Interviewee L" in taped interviews given to the US Boston College.

Rea, from Springwell Road in Groomsport, Co Down, denies a total of 19 charges including aiding and abetting the murders of Catholic men John Devine in 1989 and John O'Hara in 1991 and plotting to murder others.

Asked about the period of the Shankill Butchers in the 1970s and early '80s, the non-jury trial at Belfast Crown Court heard that the speaker on the tape said he wasn't the only loyalist against their actions.

"My recollection is... at the time of the Shankill Butchers the leadership should have moved in to prevent what was happening. But unfortunately they didn't and the reason why I'm saying... because if I had been the man to make the call I would have.

"...Because them type of murders... I would be upset... because then I believe that if you needed to kill someone you did it as swift as possible.

"... I don't want to sound callous... but you put a gun to the back of his head and you blow their brains out... but you don't butcher them".

'L' went to say that his "own personal position... opinion" was that the leader of the Butcher gang, Lenny Murphy, was "a 100 per cent psychopath".

He cited an occasion long before the killings when Murphy had sliced open his leg with a razor blade in prison.

He said it was his belief that Murphy "knew exactly what he was doing... exactly... and he had a joy at the sight of blood scooting out of my knee, and I believe that to this day".

The trial continues on Monday.

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