Document:John Weir Affidavit
John Weir's Affadavit
3rd January 1999
1. I am a former member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) which I joined in 1970 and served until 1980. After initial training in Enniskillen Training Depot, I began my police career in Strandtown RUC Station in East Belfast.
2. I left the RUC in 1980 following my conviction for the murder of William Strathearn at Ahoghill, Co.[County] Antrim, which occurred in April 1977. I will deal with this incident later in this statement. (See paragraphs 33-38)
3. I recall that in 1970 or 1971, while I was serving as a young constable, aged 20, in Strandtown there was an arms amnesty in which members of the public handed in substantial quantities of guns and ammunition of different types. Many of these guns were then given out by RUC officers to local members of a Loyalist paramilitary organization, the Ulster Defence Association, with the knowledge of the senior officers in my station. On one occasion I was ordered by Inspector Don Milligan to remove a number of rifles which had been handed in under the amnesty, and place them in the boot of his car. I do not know where he took them but it was common knowledge among my colleagues that such weapons were being given to Loyalists whom my colleagues supported.
4. In 1972, I was transferred to Armagh RUC station and I served in a specialist anti-terrorist unit, the Special Patrol Group (SPG), in Armagh for the following two years or more. This involved me in police work related to the political unrest in Northern Ireland and especially combatting IRA terrorism. For example, my duties included making early morning arrests, attending the scenes of bombings and shootings and riot control. I quickly discovered that many members of my SPG unit had Loyalists connections and supported the activities of Loyalist paramilitaries. I recall that, during the Ulster workers Strike in 1974 all members of my SPG unit fully supported the Loyalist efforts to bring down the power-sharing Executive and we toured the barricades and encouraged the strikers to persevere. When my colleagues and I learned that we were going to be sent to Portadown to contain Loyalist protests, we sabotaged our own police vehicles by putting sugar in petrol tanks and disabling our vehicles. As a result we were not sent to Portadown. My SPG had about thirty members, of whom 29 were Protestant and the only one Catholic, Maurice Coyle, who resigned and emigrated to Canada.
5. It is important to make it clear that my SPG unit, following Coyle's departure, was entirely Protestant and committed to the Loyalist cause. Each SPG unit had a call sign, which used each colour as a call sign; my unit's call sign was 'Orange.' The SPG Commander for the whole of Northern Ireland, Superintendent Killen, made a joke of this on a visit to Armagh when he showed his knowledge of our unit, saying that our colour was appropriateas we were basically an Orange Lodge.
6. The area we were responsible for patrolling included the whole of South Armagh and, on, the whole of south Down. I recall one incident near Glenanne in South Armagh, when I was on patrol with a Constable Moorcroft. We were called to a shooting incident which had occurred at Glenanne Lake and Mowhan village, the incident involved others members of our SPG unit and had led to the accidental death of two British soldiers, shot in error by my colleagues. I recall that, on the way to the scene of the incident, Constable Tom Moorcroft told me that he was concerned in case the dead men would turn out to be Loyalist paramilitaries operating in the area. He mentioned the name of one such paramilitary, James Mitchell, who was also a member of the RUC Reserve in Markethill at that time. This incident confirmed my growing realization that the security forces were involved in Loyalist terrorism.
7. I recall a visit to my SPG unit by RUC Assistant Chief Constable Charlie Rodgers, who asked us for our views on how best to combat the rise in IRA activity in south Armagh. South Armagh was, at that time, an area which was experiencing much terrorist activity from both sides. Loyalist and republican. We used the opportunity presented by Rodgers' visit to express some extreme solutions to the problem, such as that we use commercial lorries with armored plating which would enable us to remove illegal IRA roadblocks by shooting everyone dead, or that we should perform road stops wearing civilian clothes and carrying illegal weapons, pretending to be either UVF or IRA units, thereby learning the true allegiance of those we had stopped. ACC Rodgers expressed his support for these proposals and other extreme measures, with the result that some of us later implemented them. One of my colleagues, who later murdered an innocent Catholic, tried to justify his action by saying that Charlie Rodgers, on one of his visits to Armagh SPG, had authorized an RUC shoot-to-kill policy.
8. I recall that in 1974, towards the end of my time in Armagh SPG, I was having a drink with a girlfriend in Norman's Bar in Moira, Co. Armagh,when we were bought drinks by two men in the pub. We had an easy conversation and one of the men, who had already known my name, told me he had heard good reports about me and knew me to be sympathetic to the Loyalists. They left within fifteen minutes and I made inquiries as to who they were. That was the first time I ever met Robin Jackson and R. J. Kerr, two Loyalist paramilitaries, whom I would later come to know well. I assumed that oneof my SPG colleagues had previously informed these men that I would be useful to their cause.
9. Two murders in 1974 and 1975 led to my transfer from Armagh SPG to another SPG unit in Castlereagh, Belfast. The IRA had murdered an Ulster Defence Regiment officer called Elliott. After his death, I received information that he had been held and murdered at the home of Jimmy Carville. At Mollyash, Castleblaney, across the border in Co. Monaghan. I passed this information on to Sergeant John Poland in RUC Special Branch camp in Armagh. A short time later John Francis Greene, a known IRA man who was on the run from Lurgan, Co. Armagh, was shot dead in Jimmy Carville's house. I later learned that my name was being linked to the second murder and that rumours were circulating that I had organized the murder of John Francis Greene, in retaliation for the Elliott murder. Although this was untrue, these rumours put me at additional risk from the IRA and as a result, I was transferred to Belfast. I later became aware that the Greene murder had been committed by an Ulster Defence Regiment [UDR] soldier Robert McConnell, and by one of the men I had met in Norman's Bar, the Loyalist paramilitary Robin Jackson.
10. Some time after my transfer to Belfast, I received a visit from two of my former colleagues in Armagh SPG, Gary Armstrong and Ian Mitchell.They told me that ACC Rodgers had spoken to their unit once more and that they had expressed their view to him that a drastic change of policy was necessary to combat the IRA more effectively in South Armagh. They told me that they had decided for themselves, as a result of the discussions stimulated by his visit s, that the time had come to take direct action against not merely known Republicans or IRA activists but against the Catholic population in general. I agreed with them that the only way to stop the IRA murder campaign was to attack the Catholic community itself, so that it would put pressure on the IRA to call off its campaign. After I had indicated my interest in their plans, Armstrong and Mitchell informed me that they had already begun to implement them. They had started their campaign by carrying out a bomb and gun attack near Keady village, in June 1976, at the Rock Bar which is located within yards of the border with the Irish Republic.
11. Armstrong and Mitchell gave me a detailed account of how they had organized and carried out the attack. They explained how, during the attack, the detonator had exploded but the bomb itself had failed. They also told me that the machine gun attack, which had been designed to keep the customers inside the bar until the bomb exploded, had resulted in just one serious injury. The injured man had been shot by a third RUC Constable, William McCaughey, who had participated in the attack. A fourth RUC Constable, Laurence McClure also took part. I was also told that two other RUC Constables who had previously agreed to participate, David Wilson and William Scott, had failed to turn up as arranged.
12. I agreed at that meeting in Castlereagh RUC station that I would attend a further meeting in Gary Armstrong's house in Rosemount Park, Armagh on a date which was also set. When I first arrived at that meeting a few days later, the following RUC officers were present: Gary Armstrong, Laurence McClure, Ian Mitchell, David Wilson and William Scott. Another RUC Constable Samuel 'Euel' Cosgrove, had agreed to attend but did not turnup. We decided at that meeting, after a lot of discussion, that we would press on with a second attack but we did not settle on a particular target. McClure and Armstrong had explained to me in detail the past activities of their group, so that I would have a proper understanding of the character of the organization I was joining.
13. I recall that McClure told me, at that meeting in Armstrong's house, that there was a farmhouse at Glenanne from which they had already carried out several operations. He did not tell me, at that stage, the identity of the person who owned the farmhouse but he said it was owned by an RUC officer. He also said it might be necessary for his group to find a different base of operations because he believed that police officers, who were unaware that the group's activities had been authorized at a higher level, knew that the farmhouse had been used in connection with the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974. McClure informed me about this attack and others which he and others had carried out from this location. These included:(i) the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. I believe that 33 people were killed and scores seriously injured in these two bombings, which occurred on the same day. The explosives for both attacks had been provided by Captain John ppIrwin]], an Intelligence Officer in the UDR. The bombs had been assembled at the farmhouse in Glenanne, which was owned by the RUC Officer James Mitchell. The main organizer of both attacks had been a Loyalist paramilitary and UDR Captain Billy Hanna from Lurgan, Co. Armagh. The bombs had been transported in cars with Robin Jackson, Billy Hanna and David Payne taking part in the Dublin attack and Stuart Young taking responsibility for the one in Monaghan. Stuart Young later told me, at a meeting at Mitchell's farmhouse, that he had intended to place the Monaghan bomb outside a different bar in the town but the Gardai (police), who were completely unaware of what his gang were doing, had not allowed them to park at that location. Although those two bombings were amongst the worst atrocities of the Irish Troubles, those responsible for them were never even questionedby the RUC, even though both the RUC and Army Intelligence knew within days of the bombings the identities of the culprits. Indeed, since Irwin belonged to Army Intelligence it is possible that both Army Intelligence and the RUC were aware of the impending bomb attacks before they took place. Hanna and Jackson are now dead but Mitchell, Payne and Irwin are still alive.
(ii) a bomb and gun attack on two pubs in Crossmaglen, carried out by McClure and Robert McConnell in November 1974, with the getaway car provided by James Mitchell and his housekeeper Lily Shields. A local man, Thomas McNamee, was seriously injured and died from his injuries a year later. No one has ever been prosecuted for this crime.
(iii) the murder of two Gaelic football supporters at Tullyvallen, near Newtownhamilton in August 1975 by McClure, McConnell and other Loyalists belonging to the UVF. These men were wearing military uniforms when they stopped the two football supporters and after identifying them as Catholics, shot them dead.
(iv) a gun and bomb attack on Donnelly's bar in Silverbridge, South Armagh in December 1975. This was carried out in retaliation for the murder of an RUC Reserve Constable William Meeklim who, the group believed had been held at the bar after being kidnapped by the IRA. I understand that three people were killed in this attack and that several more were injured. Mr. Donnelly's 14 year old son was one of those shot dead in the attack. Those responsible for the attack are: Stuart Young, Sammy McCoo, "Shilly" Silcock, McConnell, with the get away car provided by Laurence McClure and Lily Shields. After the attack the group reassembled at Mitchell's farmhouse. I believe that no one has ever been prosecuted for these murders but that the RUC has known the truth for many years. On the same night Robin Jackson led a gang which placed a bomb in Dundalk, south of the border. One person was killed in that attack. Both attacks were co-ordinated.
(v) the murder of three Catholic brothers, the Reaveys, at Whitecross, South Armagh in January 1976. This attack was carried out by McConnell, Laurence McClure, RUC Reserve Constable Johnny Mitchell and one of McClure's brothers who, alone, was not a member of the security forces. On the same night Robin Jackson shot the three O'Dowd brothers dead. Both attacks were co-ordinated.
(vi) a car bomb in Castleblaney across the border in County Monaghan in March 1976 in which one man was killed. This attack was carried out by Laurence McClure and Robert McConnell. The explosives used in this attack, as in the others mentioned above, were provided by UDR Captain John Irwin and they were stored in Mitchell's farmhouse before the operation - though neither of these facts were revealed to me at this first meeting in Armstrong's house.
14. The meeting ended with an understanding that I would be contacted at the appropriate moment after the next operation had been agreed upon. Shortly after my return to Belfast I was contacted by Armstrong. I subsequently drove to Armagh where I met Armstrong and McClure in a carpark near the RUC station. We drove from there in McClure's car to Mitchell's farmhouse in Glenanne where I discovered that between 8 and 10 armed men, wearing camouflaged clothing were on parade in the farmyard. We discussed a bombing and shooting operation directed against a Catholic pub, Tully's, in Beleeks, South Armagh. I learnt that the car bomb had been prepared. Mitchell had the plans of the pub which showed that there was no escape route for the customers in the pub and billiard room into the main living quarters; the idea was to leave the car bomb outside the building, to shoot the place up from outside so that no one would leave before the bomb exploded, thereby ensuing maximum casualties. Armstrong and McClure then proceeded to check the route to and from the pub. However, when they found out that the Parachute Regiment was on patrol that evening, the operation was called off and I returned to Belfast.
15. On the evening after my return to Belfast, the group carried out the bombing which had been planned for the day before. The attack occurred on 8th March, 1976. The plans of the building turned out to be inaccurate and it turned out that in fact there was a door from the pub and billiard room into Tully's living quarters. So, when shots were fired through the windows, all the customers fled into the living quarters with the result that when the bomb exploded it caused only structural damage to the pub itself and none of the customers were killed or seriously injured. This bomb attack was carried out by McClure, one of McClure's brothers, Armstrong, Sammy Whitten from Portadown, Wilson Fry from Tandragee and other Loyalist paramilitaries. I have since learned that the Parachute Regiment was aware of the planned bomb attack on the second night and allowed it to proceed.
16. Some weeks after this attack on Tully's Bar I was again called by Armstrong and invited to attend a second meeting at Mitchell's farmhouse. When I arrived on this occasion I met UDR Captain Irwin for the first time. We discussed a cross-border attack and I was asked how well I knew Clontibret, a village south of the border. I said that I knew it well and after some discussion we decided on an attack on a pub in that village, which would be carried out on August 15th which is the date of a Catholic religious festival. James Mitchell then phoned Portadown and in a short time Stuart Young, Sammy McCoo and one of the Liggen family arrived to discuss the operation. After they arrived we discussed whether he could obtain a sufficient quantity of explosives and he agreed that this was not a problem. Then a group of us - Young, McCoo, McClure and I - drove together in McClure's car to Clontibret to reconnoitre Renaghan's Bar, the planned target for the bombing. We then returned to Mitchell's farmhouse and it was agreed that the bombing operation would go ahead a few days later.
17. On the morning of the planned attack on Renaghan's Bar I drove into Clontibret to make sure that the roads were clear. On arrival I found the town sealed off by the Irish Army and the Gardai. I was told by a police officer that they had received information from the police in the North that the town was to be the target of a bombing that evening. The officer confided in me because I told him I was an RUC officer and had shown him my identity card. I drove at once to Mitchell's farmhouse and informed him of what I had discovered. He told me that he already knew that the police on both sides of the border were aware of the planned attack. So it was postponed and the car bomb which had been prepared for that day was kept overnight in McClure's garage not far from the farmhouse. However, I returned to Belfast that evening.
18. Next day, Young, McCoo and Armstrong met again at Mitchell's farmhouse. I understand that there was some dispute about where to plant the bomb and they eventually decided to blow up a Catholic pub in Keady, in South Armagh. This attack was carried out on that day, August 17th 1976. A man and a woman were killed. None of the three men responsible has ever been charged with this crime. I later learned that the RUC and the Army Intelligence, who had arrested three Loyalists on the day before the bombing and learned of the proposed attack, had been keeping Mitchell's farmhouse under observation. Those entering and leaving the farmhouse were photographed and it follows therefore that the RUC and Army Intelligence allowed the bombing to go ahead. I also discovered later that UDR Captain John Irwin who provided the explosives for the Keady bombing was simultaneously working with Army Intelligence.
19. Shortly after the Keady bombing I was transferred to Omagh SPG and was based at Lisanally Army base where I worked for about six months. During this period I had little contact with those involved in the attacks in South Armagh. As far as I can recall I was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 1976 and transferred to Newry RUC station, where I was to remain for about one year. I renewed my contact with Armstrong, McClure and Mitchell and regularly visited the farmhouse in the Autumn of that year.
20. I was friendly at that time with RUC Constable Billy McBride and I visited his home on one occasion at a time when Chief Inspector Harry Breen was present. We discussed McBride's connection to a group of Loyalists in Co. Down called Down Orange Welfare, which was headed by a retired Army officer, Lt. Col. Edward Brush. McBride told us he was a member of this group, which was almost entirely composed of members or ex-members of the security forces. He produced a .38 revolver from a drawer in his living room and after I had examined it he replaced it in the drawer. He then went into another room and brought out two home made sub-machine guns, copies of the Sterling machine-gun. He explained that Down Orange Welfare was manufacturing Sterling sub-machine guns and that the two he had shown me were the prototypes and were of imperfect design. McBride added that the group were in the process of making an M1 carbine, an American rifle, and that the only remaining problem to be tackled was the ejector mechanism for spent bullets. He anticipated that this would not present any insuperable difficulty. In Chief Inspector Breen's presence he then offered me the two sub-machine guns because he knew about my connections to Loyalist paramilitaries. I accepted them and took them to Mitchell's farmhouse.
21. Constable McBride was a gunsmith and, following this initial meeting with him, guns changed hands on several occasions. On one occasion, after McBride had told me that he had received four new sub-machine guns from Down Orange Welfare, I contacted Armstrong who soon arrived with McClure at Newry RUC station. Armstrong had a conversation with Chief Inspector Breen, whom he knew well, and the three of us went to McBride's house where we collected the guns. These sub-machine guns were transported to Mitchell's farmhouse where I later test fired them in a hayshed. They worked perfectly. Mitchell subsequently sold these weapons to Jackie Whitten, a UVF paramilitary leader in Portadown for 100 pounds each. I then gave the 400 pounds to McBride so that the money could be used for the manufacture of further weapons. In summary, Down Orange Welfare was using RUC officers in Newry RUC station - McBride, Breen, myself - and another RUC officer, Sergeant Monty Alexander from Forkhill RUC station - to supply weapons to the UVF in Portadown. I later learned that these weapons were being manufactured by Samuel McCoubrey in Spa, Co. Down.
22. While I was based in Newry Armstrong took me about four times to meet Robin Jackson in Lurgan, where we discussed possible attacks on the IRA. I recall one occasion when Armstrong, Jackson and I visited McBride at his home in Newry to discuss the assassination of a leading IRA man in the town. We did this because McBride had detailed knowledge of Republican activity but the attack never materialised. On another occasion, Armstrong, Jackson and I reconnoitred IRA homes in south Armagh and, though we did not have a gun, Jackson carried a hammer and a knife: he told us that if we were to find a suitable person to kill, he knew how to do it with those weapons. We went near the homes of two IRA men in the Silverbridge area. Stephen Reel and the local IRA quartermaster, whose name I cannot now recall, but we did not attack either of them. On our way back to Lurgan we were stopped near the border by an RUC road-block under the control of RUC Inspector Earl McDowell from Bessbrook RUC station. Although McDowell had encountered two RUC officers, Armstrong and myself in the company of the most notorious Loyalist paramilitary in Northern Ireland, Robin Jackson, he merely exchanged pleasantries and waved us through.
23. During one of our visits to Jackson's house in Lurgan, Jackson explained to Armstrong and me that he had been approached by RUC Constable William McCaughey and an RUC Special Branch officer, known to him but not identified to us, with a proposal to kill an RUC Sergeant. He did not identify the proposed victim, nor did he tell us where the policeman lived or worked. I asked him why they intended to kill an RUC officer and he informed me he had been told this man had Republican connections. I expressed my doubts and reservations about such an operation and I asked him if he knew what he was getting into. He told me there were no problems at all and that, to keep himself safe, he would insist that the RUC Special Branch deliver a gun to him at an entry where it had been prearranged that the shooting would take place. He had been inviting me to accompany him on the killing but he realised from my reaction that I wished to have no part in it. Armstrong made no comment of any kind and I now know that he did not participate in any way in this killing.
24. A short time after this conversation, RUC Sergeant Joseph Campbell was shot dead in Cushendall. However, at the time, I did not connect Campbell's murder with my earlier conversation with Jackson. Nor did Jackson mention the Campbell murder with me at our first meeting after the Campbell killing, nor did I ever discuss it with McCaughey: nor did I ever discuss it with Jackson at any time. There was no reason why, at the time of that murder, I should have made any such connection because the IRA were regularly murdering policemen and I had no reason for thinking that the Campbell murder was in any way unusual. At my first meeting with Jackson some weeks after my refusal to help him oblige his RUC Special Branch associate. Jackson proposed to me that I help him murder a different person, someone in Co. Antrim. This would turn out to be William Strathearn.
25. I was on duty in Newry RUC station when I received a phone call from RUC Constable William McCaughey asking me to meet him in Armagh. We met in a pub in Armagh and he discussed with me a reported shooting incident in Ahoghill in which a police officer was, as I recall, shot in the leg. McCaughey raised the issue of the need for a retaliation but nothing specific was planned at that stage. McCaughey then asked me if I would accompany him to meet Robin Jackson in Lurgan and I agreed. We travelled to Lurgan in my car and we met Jackson at his home. When we arrived, I soon realised that the proposed retaliation was at a more advanced level than McCaughey had indicated or than I had appreciated. It quickly became obvious to me that the proposed attack had already been discussed in detail and I was taken aback to discover that Jackson and McCaughey proposed to carry out the operation on that particular night. I listened when McCaughey told Jackson that the gun to be used in the attack had never been used in any shooting before, that he had taken it from Lurgan RUC station and that it was in his home. I heard McCaughey and Jackson agree how they would proceed with Jackson saying he would go and collect his helper on the lorry R.J. Kerr while McCaughey would take me with him to his house, where he would collect the gun, before going on to rendezvous with Jackson and Kerr at the roundabout in Moira, Co. Antrim. I did not know at that stage the identity of the proposed target in Ahoghill nor did I know for certain whether Jackson and McCaughey merely intended to frighten a particular person or to kill him. I found I was participating in an operation that I had not discussed fully and whose consequences I did not properly appreciate. The entire discussion at Jackson's home lasted a few minutes. However, I wish to make it clear that I took part in this operation voluntarily and that I went along with the arrangements made by McCaughey and Jackson.
26. After McCaughey had collected the gun from his home in Lurgan I drove him in my own car to the roundabout at Moira where Jackson and his helper were already waiting in a lorry. Jackson drove the lorry and we followed him towards Ahoghill, stopping behind him when he parked approximately one mile before reaching the village. I now recall, on the basis of my conversation with McCaughey in the car, that McCaughey, like me, did not fully appreciate that Jackson was going to commit a murder. And even after Jackson and Kerr had got into my car outside Ahoghill village, McCaughey seemed still to think that Jackson was merely going to frighten the chosen person rather than kill him. I believed, wrongly as it was soon to turn out, that Jackson and Kerr were merely going to fire into the house to frighten the occupants and it was evident to me that McCaughey also held the same opinion. After giving Jackson the gun, McCaughey told him just to fire through the upstairs windows so as to make sure the occupants got the message. My main concern, at that late stage, was that my car number plates would be easily identified but when I shared this concern with McCaughey he assured me there was nothing to worry about and that he was certain that there were no security forces in the area. McCaughey and I waited in the car not far from the target house and we both heard the shooting. After Jackson and Kerr had returned and got into my car, Jackson said that he had shot the man twice and we then left the village calmly. I drove my car back to the lorry, where Jackson and Kerr got out so they could go on to their ultimate destination to deliver a load of chickens. I drove McCaughey to his father's house in Ahoghill and McCaughey told his father, in my presence, that Jackson had shot somebody dead in the town. He gave his father the gun for safe keeping. Next morning I learned from the news on the radio that the victim had been William Strathearn.
27. After leaving McCaughey's father's house I drove McCaughey back to Armagh and dropped him off at the RUC station. I then proceeded to Bessbrook RUC station where I had living quarters even though I was still stationed in Newry. I went to work early on the morning after the killing and carried on with my normal work. However, over the following week I told three colleagues about what had happened. These were Chief Inspector Breen, Constable Bob Hamilton and RUC Special Branch Constable Ian Begley. All of these three men already knew about collusion between Loyalist paramilitaries and RUC officers including McBride, Sergeant Monty Alexander and myself. Chief Inspector Breen also knew about similar illegal activities by McCaughey and Armstrong. Ian Begley, for example, had previously told me that he thought McBride had been involved with Jackson in the murder of a Catholic close, I believe, to Mayobridge in South Down in the early 1970s.
28. I think it is important to make it clear that this collusion between Loyalist paramilitaries such as Robin Jackson and my RUC colleagues and me was taking place with the full knowledge of my superiors. I recall that after I had told Chief Inspector Breen about my involvement in the Strathearn murder, that he told me to forget about it. I also recall later witnessing a conversation between Chief Inspector Breen and Inspector Harvey who was in charge of Newry CID when both men discussed with approval McCaughey and Armstrong's continuing activity in Loyalist terrorism with Robin Jackson. And I recall another occasion, in the toilets at the Pitbar near Bessbrook when RUC Special Branch Constable David Miller indicated to me that he knew I had been involved in the Strathearn murder and suggested he would not object if I was to kill an identified IRA man in Newry. For these and other reasons I did not think there was the slightest possibility that I would ever be arrested or charged with my role in the Strathearn murder.
29. Some months after the Strathearn murder I was called to a meeting with the head of RUC Special Branch in Newry, Chief Inspector Brian Fitzsimmons. He confirmed what I had already been told by Chief Inspector Breen that I was to be transferred to Newtownhamilton RUC station. During this meeting Mr. Fitzsimmons let me know that he was aware that I had been involved in Loyalist terrorist activity for some time but it was clear he was not bothered by this. He told me that he knew all about my paramilitary past activities with James Mitchell and that my local connections to Loyalist paramilitaries were part of the reason why I was being placed in charge of Newtownhamilton RUC station. I understood the message of my meeting with Chief inspector Fitzsimmons to be that I had the green light to carry on with my activities. I now know that Chief Inspector Fitzsimmons rose to the rank of Assistant Chief constable and that he was killed in the Chinook helicopter crash in Scotland in 1994.
30. Shortly after I arrived in Newtownhamilton I began to realise that my illegal activities with Loyalist paramilitaries, encouraged and approved by my superiors in the RUC had placed my life in danger. For I learned from a Republican informant that Robert McConnell, one of the central figures in the bomb attack on Donnelly's Bar in Silverbridge (as discussed in 13 (iv) above) had been set up by Army Intelligence and assassinated by the IRA. My informant told me that Army Intelligence Captain Robert Nairac had told him about McConnell's involvement in that bomb attack, that the IRA had learned the names of all those involved in the attack and it was only a matter of time before the rest of the gang were murdered. I had discovered that Army Intelligence, through Nairac, was playing one side off against the other and I realised therefore that my involvement with the Loyalists had made me a target. I realised that Army Intelligence had organised the murder of Robert McConnell after it had used him to carry out attacks on the Catholic population: it then arranged his murder by the IRA to ensure that he would never be able to reveal the truth about his role.
31. So I became suspicious when one of my colleagues, RUC Inspector Earl McDowell from Bessbrook arrived at Newtownhamilton RUC station in the company of an unidentified Army Intelligence officer who was also based in the town. My suspicions were aroused when, in the presence of my colleague in Newtownhamilton, RUC Sergeant Monty Alexander, these two men suggested that I ought to plant weapons on a local IRA suspect Donal Walsh. Their plan was that I should do it in such a way that it could be made to appear as if Walsh had been planning an ambush on a security force patrol. I realised that if this plan went into operation I would be carrying illegal weapons on Walsh's land and I would therefore be placing myself at risk of being shot as a terrorist by an Army patrol. I also did not trust McDowell and I therefore declined to participate in his scheme.
32. On another occasion I was on mobile patrol with RUC Constable Stephen McGowan and McDowell when I informed them I had obtained information regarding a suspect IRA man who was on the run and living in a caravan in Mollyash, across the border in the Irish Republic. McDowell, who was aware of my connections to Loyalist paramilitaries told me I should use the right people to have him killed. When I replied that I did not wish to get involved in illegal activity he said that I should at very least go down and burn the caravan to the ground. I did not wish to admit openly toMcDowell, whom I did not trust, that I had already engaged in similar conduct but I realised that he was well aware of what I had been doing.
33. McDowell assured me that if I agreed to carry out either or both of these operations - planting the weapons on Walsh or killing the IRA man in the caravan - I would have the full backing of the RUC officer in charge of the whole area, Assistant Chief Constable Charlie Rodgers.
34. During my time in Newtownhamilton I became increasingly aware that there was an internal struggle within the security forces over the best way to fight the IRA and that there was fierce rivalry between Army Intelligence and RUC Special Branch. I did my best to sidestep this rivalry but I found myself pulled in different directions by both sides. For example, I recall one occasion when I returned to my office in Newtownhamilton to find two Englishmen, who introduced themselves as belonging to the Special Air Services (SAS) waiting for me. They indicated that they knew about my past and admired my skills in fighting the IRA but the main purpose of their visit was to warn me not to trust RUC Special Branch. In contrast, I remember receiving similar advice from RUC Special Branch about the danger of getting too involved with Army Intelligence. I recall that I was approached by a Major Robertson of the Royal Green Jackets and asked to use my connections with Loyalist paramilitaries to have an IRA family, the Murphys, murdered. After discussing the matter with RUC Special Branch officers Begley and Hamilton I choose to not get involved. I decided at this point in my career that I would no longer participate in any Loyalist activity directed against either the IRA or the general Catholic population, even if I was encouraged to do so by one or other faction within the security forces.
35. I drew this lesson from the death of Army Intelligence officer Captain Robert Nairac who had infiltrated both sides, Loyalist and Republican, in an attempt to intensify the conflict so that each side would wipe each other out. A Republican informant, the late Packy Reel, from Dorsey, South Armagh told me he had been aware the role Nairac had played in infiltrating both Republican and Loyalist terrorist groups, the IRA and the UVF. He told me that Nairac had supplied explosives to the IRA and I knew from my Loyalist contacts in Portadown that Nairac was involved with Robin Jackson. Reel told me that Nairac had informed him and, therefore, the IRA that police and security forces were responsible for the attack on Donnelly's Bar and that he (Nairac) had given Reel the names of those responsible. Reel also told me that the IRA, after learning this information had killed UDR soldier Robert McConnell. Reel explained that the IRA had, for a time, believed Nairac to be sympathetic to their cause, which was the reason he had been allowed to participate in IRA meetings; but that Nairac's cover had been blown when he was recognised at the Army shooting of IRA activist Peter Cleary in South Armagh. Nairac paid the price for his attempt to play off both sides. He was murdered by the IRA. As I did not wish to risk a similar fate I resolved not to get involved in such activity.
36. I believe that it was in 1978 that I was transferred to Dumurray, near Belfast. I was told I was being moved because my life would have been in danger if I had remained in Newtownhamilton. I remained in Dunmurray for about a year before I successfully applied for a transfer to Magherafelt SPG. I had arrived in Magherafelt for only a short time when suddenly, and without any advance warning I was arrested just before Christmas 1979 for my part in the murder of William Strathearn 20 months earlier.
37. While serving in Dunmurray and in Magherafelt I had absolutely no contact with Loyalist paramilitary figures and I intended to pursue my career without any further involvement with them. My relationship with McCaughey had faded but I learned, towards the end of 1978 that he was suffering from mental stress. I had therefore discussed this with Armstrong and Jackson in the autumn of 1979 because we were worried he might tell the story of how William Strathearn came to be murdered. Jackson told us, at the meeting which was held in his home in Lurgan that he had been considering killing McCaughey so that he would remain silent forever. However, he thought that McCaughey would not be so stupid as to talk about the murder because of his own involvement. Jackson's belief turned out to be wrong because, shortly after our meeting, I learned that McCaughey had signed himself into a psychiatric hospital in Portadown and had started to talk to RUC Sergeant John Poland about everything in which he had been involved. Around the time he was receiving medical treatment McCaughey spent some time on remand in Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast in relation to an assault on his wife. I now believe McCaughey had become so unstable that everyone aware of his criminal past, especially inside the RUC, began to grow frightened that the truth would leak out into the public domain.
38. RUC Special Branch officer John Poland and RUC Inspector Russell arrested me at work in Magherafelt on terrorist related charges. I was the brought to Castlereagh Holding Centre for interrogation. After initially denying that I had been involved in the murder of William Strathearn I realised that the detectives questioning me had already obtained the full story from McCaughey. I was shown the gun used to kill Strathearn and I was then confronted by McCaughey who informed me he had told the RUC everything he knew about the murder and about everything else in which he had been involved. I was then confronted by McCaughey's father who identified me as the person who had called at his house after the shooting in Ahoghill and the detectives led me to believe that Jackson and Kerr were also in custody in the room next door and that they were also admitting their culpability. Some time after these events I informed my questioners that I would be prepared to sign a statement admitting my role in the murder.
39. I later learned, after I had been charged and was on remand in Crumlin Road prison in Belfast that Jackson and Kerr had not in fact been in the room next door to mine in Castlereagh nor had they been arrested or charged with the murder, indeed, they had not even been questioned about it. The detectives had chosen to follow this course even though they knew that McCaughey and I had never even got out of the car in Ahoghill and that it had been Jackson and Kerr who had actually committed the murder. I was puzzled about this decision to allow Jackson and Kerr to remain at liberty but then I did not know, at that time, that Jackson was untouchable because he was an RUC Special Branch agent.
40. The RUC detectives who questioned me - Mooney, Hylands, Meek, Harris, McCann, Stewart - made it clear that McCaughey had confessed about everything in which he had been involved and everything else he knew. This was evident to me from the line of questioning followed by the police and it was, subsequently, personally confirmed to me by McCaughey when the detectives brought him into the interview room in Castlereagh Holding Centre. I recall that my interviewers told me McCaughey had stated: "the RUC in South Armagh are the UVF." At a later date when I met McCaughey in Crumlin Road Prison before my trial he told me he had divulged so much information to the RUC at that time that he could not even remember what he had actually told them. I learnt that he was being kept in complete isolation because the prison authorities thought he might be murdered as a reprisal for the total confession he had made to the RUC. In fact, within six months of his trial and conviction for the Strathearn murder there was an attempt to poison him but it failed.
41. I believe that all my interviews with the investigating officers named above were tape recorded. Those tape recordings if they are still available will show that I gave my interviewees much information about the terrorist activity in which I had been involved. Initially I denied my involvement but after a time, for some reason, unknown to me at that time, my interviewers had lost complete interest in all these other incidents some of which I have described in this statement. I then suggested to them that we should indeed explore everything in which I and others had been involved or knew about. For example, I said that we should begin by discussing the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. They replied that I should tell them all about it. I then asked whether they did not know all about them already and they made it clear that they had no interest in pursuing the matter further. I asked them whether or not McCaughey had told them about the role played in the bombings by Army Intelligence officer and UDR Captain John Irwin but, again, they made it clear they did not wish to discuss the matter. I am confident that the RUC tape-recordings of my interview will corroborate this.
42. During one of my interviews, conducted by RUC officers Meek and Harris I was asked if I knew an RUC Special Branch man called McCormick. When I replied that I did and discussed the person I was referring to they told me they were talking about a different individual. When I said I did not know any other McCormick in RUC Special Branch they then asked me what I knew about the murder of RUC Sergeant Joseph Campbell in Cushendall. I told them I knew nothing whatsoever about it. They informed me that McCaughey had told them he thought differently and they said they believed the Campbell murder to have been what they called a 'carbon copy' of the Strathearn murder even though the Campbell murder had, in fact, taken place first. Again they continued to tell me that McCaughey had told them everything, that Jackson and Kerr had been involved in the Campbell murder and that McCaughey was alleging I knew something about it. After a short time this line of questioning ceased and the Campbell murder was not raised with me again during my time in the Castlereagh Holding Centre.
43. What I had told my RUC interviewers in Castlereagh Holding Centre about my alleged involvement in the Campbell murder was true - namely that I was not involved in any way. I thought that I knew absolutely nothing about it. However, after I was charged with the Strathearn murder something fell into place in my mind. I remembered my meeting with Robin Jackson at his home in Lurgan when, in the company of my RUC colleague Gary Armstrong Jackson had told us that he had been asked by an unidentified RUC Special Branch officer to kill another unidentified RUC officer. I also remembered Jackson telling us that the RUC Special officer's request had been delivered to him by McCaughey. As I have explained in paragraph 24 above I had not linked Jackson's request to the subsequent Campbell murder but after I had been charged with the Strathearn murder and after I had been questioned about my possible involvement in the Campbell murder I realised that this must have been the RUC officer whom Jackson had been proposing that I help him kill. I would subsequently learn, starting while I was on remand and after my conviction a good deal more about how RUC Sergeant Joseph Campbell came to be murdered by Robin Jackson.
44. I was in Crumlin Road Prison just after my conviction for the murder of William Strathearn when I received a visit from Bill Mooney, head ofthe RUC CID who talked to me in the Prison governor's office. By this time I was aware that RUC Special Branch Sergeant Charlie McCormick had been arrested and charged with the Campbell murder; he was on remand in Crumlin Road Prison awaiting trial but, as I did not know him, I had not talked to him. Mooney began by reassuring me that my life was not in any danger but he told me that McCaughey's life was at risk because of what he knew and what he had revealed to the police. Mooney also told me that McCaughey was very lucky not to have been charged with the murder of Sergeant Campbell. Although I did not know, and still don't know, the full details of McCaughey's involvement in that murder I believed that Mooney certainly did; however, I had worked it out by then that Campbell had not been the man Jackson had been referring to when in February 1977 he had asked me to help him kill a policeman. I also realised at the time of Mooney's visit that Charlie McCormick was the RUC Special Branch officer my RUC interrogators had been referring to when they had asked me if I knew an RUC Special Branch man called McCormick.
45. After my meeting with Mooney I met McCaughey in the prison dining hall and he told me that Mooney had met him in the Governor's office immediately after his meeting with me. He repeated to me what Mooney had told me about him, namely that he should have been charged with the Campbell murder. And McCaughey confided in me that the Campbell murder had been carried out in exactly the same way as that of William Strathearn. He even told me that the same chicken lorry had been used by the same people. I understood him to mean Jackson and Kerr.
46. I believed McCaughey at this time because I realised it was not a coincidence that RUC Sergeant Campbell had been murdered a short time after my conversation with Jackson when I had visited him with Armstrong.
47. Jackson was arrested on charges unrelated to either the Strathearn or Campbell murders a short time after my own arrest and he was imprisoned in Crumlin Road on remand at the same time as RUC Special Branch Sergeant Charlie McCormick was there. All three of us went to the prison chapel regularly and we took advantage of the opportunity to communicate with each other. During these services in the chapel McCormick was separated from us and placed in the balcony of the prison chapel. On a number of occasions I saw Jackson making signs to McCormick in full view of the prisoners and the prison officers that he should keep his mouth shut. Jackson clasped his own lips with his fingers and then, to make sure McCormick had got the message, drew his index finger across his own throat, implying to McCormick that if he talked Jackson would cut his throat. I took this to mean that McCormick knew something about Jackson which Jackson wished to remain secret. On one of these occasions Jackson was sitting beside me in the chapel as he made these signs to McCormick. When I asked Jackson if he knew McCormick he replied that he had met him.
48. McCaughey, McCormick and one of McCormick's co-defendants Anthony O'Doherty all claimed to have become 'born again Christians' while they were on remand in the prison. This brought them into close and regular contact with the prison chaplains, with McCormick and O'Doherty confiding in both Presbyterian minister Rev. Howard Cromie and Methodist minister Rev.Robert Russell. McCaughey however identified with Rev. Ian Paisley's church and therefore he confided somewhat less in these two ministers. I was, therefore, approached on numerous occasions by Rev. Russell and on several occasions by Rev. Cromie who asked me to try and persuade McCaughey to tell them the truth about the Campbell murder. They informed me that they had spoken at length with McCormick and that as a result they believed him to be innocent. They also believed that McCaughey had information which would enable McCormick to clear his name on this murder. They pointed out that if McCaughey was genuinely serious about being a reformed Christian he should not allow an innocent man to be put on trial and possibly convicted for a murder which they believed he had not done. They then asked me if I knew anything more about the murder which would help McCormick to clear his name. Rev. Russell in particular was puzzled that Jackson appeared to enjoy immunity from prosecution and further he was curious about McCormick's claim that Jackson was an RUC Special Branch agent. He wanted to know if this could be true.
49. Although I was aware of Jackson's past, as described in this statement, I told Rev. Russell and Rev. Cromie that I did not wish to become entangled in disputes between these men and I explained that, in any case, my relations with McCaughey were not good. However, I became aware that Rev. Cromie had learned something from O'Doherty which he had then repeated to Mccormick and I further learnt that McCormick was threatening to subpoena Rev. Cromie to testify about this during his forthcoming trial for the Campbell murder. I knew that as a result of these developments the prison authorities were growing anxious and that they quickly changed the rules relating to meetings between prisoners and chaplains. This meant that O'Doherty was not allowed to meet Rev. Cromie again and Rev. Cromie was in fact not required to testify during McCormick's trial. Nevertheless I inferred from all this that O'Doherty possessed information about the Campbell murder which McCormick felt would be of assistance to him. But I do not know what that information is.
50. I have stated everything I know about the respective roles of Jackson, McCaughey, Kerr, O'Doherty and McCormick in relation to the Campbell murder. I have repeatedly discussed the Campbell murder and all other matters raised in this statement with Crumlin Road Prison governors Rodgers and Craig and with the Number One governor in Maghaberry prison prior to my release. This governor, whose name I cannot recall, expressed his disgust at the way the Campbell murder had been handled and he informed me that this murder led to the suicide of RUC Special Branch Officer Jimmy Blair from Ballymena RUC Station. As a result of all that I have heard of this killing I believe that only an independent inquiry will succeed in establishing the full truth about the murder of RUC Sergeant Joseph Campbell.
51. While I deeply regret the murder of William Strathearn and my part in it, as I regret all the other lives lost through violence during the troubles, I nevertheless feel I have suffered an injustice. For I was not acting alone in the activities described in this statement and my superiors in the RUC were well aware of what my RUC colleagues and I were doing. Indeed, as I have explained, they encouraged us in our activities. I have felt, since my release from prison in 1992, that my own life was in danger because of what I could reveal about the RUC. In fact, I learned that my personal details had been leaked to Republican terrorists and that, on two occasions, they came looking for me. That is why I decided to leave Northern Ireland and have, for the past five years, been living in Nigeria.
52. I have spoken to three journalists at length about my experiences between 1970 and my release from prison in 1992. I had several lengthy conversations with Liam Clarke of the Sunday Times and smuggled letters to him from prison so that he would obtain a better understanding of collusion between the RUC and Loyalist paramilitaries. He visited me in prison on a number of occasions and I again contacted him on my release and we discussed these issues again. I also spoke to Joe Tiernan when he was working for Yorkshire Television and I had further contacts with him when he was working with Sean McPhilemy for Channel 4. I have had lengthy conversations with Sean McPhilemy and explained to him the pattern of collusion in Northern Ireland in the period before he became involved in 1991. I gave all three of these journalists essentially the same information.
53. On 6th December 1998 I travelled to northern Ireland from London and was met by my friend Eric McConnell who took me to his home in Larne, Co. Antrim. On Tuesday 8th December 1998 I phoned Arthur Miskelly, an RUC officer in Tandragee, Co. Armagh and tried to arrange a meeting with him. I have known Arthur for many years since I served with him in the Armagh RUC Special Patrol Group in the early 1970s. He told me on the phone that he had arranged to meet the following day Richard Monteith, a solicitor whom I knew. I suggested to Arthur that I should meet both of them and he agreed. Richard Monteith phoned me later in the day and arranged to meet us at a car park near the pub which is opposite the railway station in Lisburn, Co. Antrim. The following day I drove in Eric McConnell's Vauxhall car to Lisburn and, when I arrived, Arthur was already in the car park. We waited and talked a few minutes until Richard Monteith arrived. We then crossed the road from the car park and went for lunch in a pub opposite the railway station car park. I do not recall the name of the pub. The time was approximately 2 o'clock in the afternoon.
54. We ordered a meal and we all had chicken, chips and vegetables. During the meal we had a conversation during which we mainly discussed the political situation in Northern Ireland. I told both men I was visiting home because I had experienced some difficulties with the immigration authorities in Nigeria and, in general, I talked about why this had come about. I explained that I thought it had happened either as a result of information supplied by the security forces or by journalists who had previously been in touch with me or were attempting to get in touch with me about a libel action in London relating to the RUC and Loyalists in northern Ireland. I told the two men that Sean McPhilemy and Joe Tiernan had been in touch with me a number of times on the phone about this subject and I also told them that I had known Liam Clarke of the Sunday Times for many years. Richard Monteith told me he was not surprised that I had spoken to them and he said he would have expected such people to be in touch with me. He did not say why but because of my past experience in Northern Ireland it was obvious to me what he was referring to.
55. We went on then to discuss Sean McPhilemy's book The Committee but Arthuir Miskelly did not say much because he had not read it. Richard Monteith told me that the book was basically accurate but he thought there were a number of small mistakes, such as in the case of the Prentice brothers. He expressed his opinion, though he was not completely sure, that they would be involved in the supply of money to Loyalists rather than organising terrorism or attending meetings at which such things were organised. He said one of the problems which the Prentices might also have would be accounting for money which was used as protection against Loyalist paramilitaries. He also said that ought not to be a problem because the British Government had once compensated businessmen who had given money for protection.
56. We discussed a man who resides in Tandragee called Samuel Abraham. Richard Monteith said he was aware that Abraham had a conviction for a sexual offence against a young boy and then referred to another man called Barrie Bradbury stating that he was also a pervert and had once sexually assaulted his step daughter. I asked Robert Monteith if the Prentice brothers would be involved in this type of behaviour and he told me he would not be surprised if this was the case. I got the impression Robert Monteith did not like the Prentices.
57. He told me that the book had got it wrong about Wilson from Ulster Carpets and he told me that Wilson was a Quaker and he could not see him involved in such a thing. I have since learned from Sean McPhilemy that his book does not contain any reference to anyone called Wilson or to anyone from Ulster Carpets,
58. Richard Monteith also told me that Abernethy, when approached by a journalist called Ben Hamilton had been under the impression that a programme was to be prepared to promote the cause of the Ulster Loyalists. He said that Abernethy had overreacted or acted on the spur of the moment by driving this journalist to a meeting with point with Graham Long from Ulster Resistance. Abernethy was later recognised by the same journalist at the house of Reverend Hugh Ross and, as a result, he said that Abernethy was a worried man and that the situation was now extremely embarrassing for him as he worked in quite a high position in the Ulster Bank. Richard Monteith said that, unlike Abernethy, he was not personally concerned as nobody knew anything about him. He said that the case of R.J. Kerr regarding the shooting of Paschal Mulholland was somewhat of a mistake for him but nobody could do anything about it as he had talked to the McCrainor brothers and they would not reveal anything that would do him any harm. He told me the advice of the late Robin Jackson that he should never reveal secret information to any person.
59. We then went on to discuss the sweetshop killing in Craigavon, Co. Armagh. He said again that the book had made a mistake regarding this shooting as Jackson was not present at the actual killings. He told me that he (Richard Monteith) was present with Robin Jackson in Jackson's house at the time of the shootings to provide an alibi. I took this to mean that Robin Jackson knew exactly what was going to happen and that Robert Monteith knew that something was going to happen on that night. He mentioned the names of people involved but used nicknames except for the name Fulton. It was obvious he knew all about it.
60. He told me that Barrie Bradbury was a pervert and described him as a useless man who was giving information to a journalist called Martin O'Hagan. He complained that the Fultons could do nothing right and even messed up when they went to try to murder Barrie Bradbury.
61. He told me that Martin O'Hagan lived close by and could be dealt with any time. He then asked me if, from my conversation with Sean McPhilemy I thought he would be easily scared. I told him that I had not talked enough to Sean McPhilemy to be able to answer that question but I thought as a journalist he would be obviously difficult to put off what he was working on. I understood this to mean that he and others had talked or considered putting pressure on Sean McPhilemy to make him drop the story. We talked for about 1 1/2 hours and, after Richard paid the bill, we went back to the car park and then went our own way.
62. The contents of this statement and of the attached list of murders attributed to Robin Jackson, which I have provided voluntarily, are true to the best of my knowledge and belief. I am prepared to testify about the matters referred to in these statements in the two libel cases in which Sean McPhilemy is involved, one in the U.K., the other in the USA. I hereby authorise Sean McPhilemy to use these statements as he thinks fit.
Signed 3rd February 1999