Victim’s son: ‘Serial killer’ Haggarty will walk free as part of supergrass deal

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A murderous loyalist paramilitary chief turned state informer will walk free as part of a deal to turn state’s evidence, the son of one of his victims said.

Gary Haggarty, 46, was a “serial killer” allowed by police to murder at will, Kieran Fox claimed.

He was handed a minimum six-and-a-half-year sentence at Belfast Crown Court after admitting more than 200 offences including five murders.

Mr Fox’s workman father Eamon Fox was shot dead in a sectarian Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) murder in May 1994.

Haggarty organised the weapon and walked the gunman to the scene.

Mr Fox asked: “What is justice in this country? It is just designed to look after the criminal.

“How can a man convicted of that many crimes (202) be set free? The man is a serial killer, he was a paid state informer, he was allowed to kill at will, police knew he was killing at will and let it continue.”

The judge said he would serve six-and-a-half years in prison before he is entitled to consideration for release by the Parole Commissioners as part of the peace process deal involving a heavily discounted sentence in exchange for giving information about his criminal colleagues.

However, he has already served 1,186 days in prison on remand and is entitled to credit for that.

Haggarty’s evidence has led to one person being charged with murder.

Ciaran Fox, son of Eamon Fox who was shot dead by the UVF, speaks outside Laganside courts, Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)
Kieran Fox, son of Eamon Fox who was shot dead by the UVF, speaks outside Laganside courts, Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

He said: “He has been involved in a terrorist campaign over a 16-year period that has resulted in deaths for which he was directly responsible.

“The organisation he supported and assisted has resulted in untold damage to individual lives and society as a whole.”

Haggarty’s murder victims included:

– John Harbinson, who was beaten to death with a hammer by a UVF gang in North Belfast in May 1997. Afterwards Haggarty went and had a drink in a nearby house, the judge said.

– Catholic Sean McParland, who was shot dead in front of children in 1994. Haggarty volunteered to be the lead gunman to dispel UVF suspicions about informers, the judge said.

Mr Justice Colton said an eyewitness account showed: “He could see his grandad in the living room who had started to bend down and was flapping his arms.

“He was unable to speak because of a recent operation for throat cancer.”

– Catholic workmen Mr Fox, 44, a father of six, and Gary Convie, 24, a father of one, were shot dead as they had lunch together in a car in Belfast.

– Sean McDermott, a 37-year-old Catholic found shot dead in his car near Antrim in August 1994.

Haggarty admitted involvement in the killings as part of the deal to give evidence against criminals charged.

Most people named in his police interviews will not face prosecution amid state concerns about a lack of supporting evidence.

The judge said he provided substantial assistance which provided a check against the belief that these people are “untouchable” and major criminals may otherwise have escaped justice.

He said Haggarty’s evidence was not due to a road to Damascus conversion but out of self-interest.

“As a result of that assistance the defendant has placed himself at considerable personal risk which will have a significant impact for the rest of his life,” he said.

As well as the five murders, Haggarty, who is in protective custody, has also admitted five attempted murders, including against police officers; 23 counts of conspiracy to murder; directing terrorism; and membership of a proscribed organisation.

The judge said the defendant’s criminality had had a devastating effect on a large number of individual victims and their families.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton said it was a difficult day for families whose cases did not reach the prosecution threshold.

“Detectives in the Operation Stafford team made strenuous efforts over a prolonged period of time, however any investigation into cases decades old is very difficult.

“As time passes these difficulties continue to grow and in the context of Northern Ireland’s tragic past the overall investigative challenges are complicated still further.

“Significant attempts have been made by the PSNI to bring justice to the families of the victims but we fully realise that this provides little comfort to these families whose grief remains undiminished with time. Our thoughts are also with them today.”

Michael Agnew, acting deputy director of the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said such levels of sentence discount as seen in Haggarty’s case can arise in circumstances where criminals provide assistance in relation to serious crime that enables investigations to be pursued and prosecutions to be potentially brought.

“This is a difficult aspect of the regime, particularly for all victims and their families, but without it convictions for the many offences would not have been achieved.”

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