FOURTEEN men went on trial in Belfast on Tuesday (September 6) accused of terrorist related offences, including the murder of UDA leader Tommy English in Ballyduff in October 2000.
A huge security operation was in place as demonstrators gathered outside Laganside Courts ahead of the first major ‘supergrass’ trial in Northern Ireland in more than 25 years.
Friends and relatives of the 14 men on trial carried placards protesting against the use of two informers in the case.
The testimony of two New Mossley brothers, Robert and David Stewart - self-confessed members of the UVF who are currently serving time in Maghaberry Prison after confessing to involvement in Tommy English’s murder - will form the crown’s main case against the accused.
Nine alleged UVF men, including former leading member Mark Haddock, are charged with the murder of the UDA boss. They and another five alleged UVF men also face a range of other charges.
English was shot dead in front of his wife at their home in Ballyduff during the loyalist feud in 2000.
On the first day of the non-jury trial, Crown counsel Gordon Kerr outlined the accounts of David and Robert Stewart as he opened the prosecution case against Haddock and his 13 co-accused. He told the court that Haddock (42) had ordered the murder of his paramilitary rival.
The 14 defendants, including six men from Newtownabbey - Alexander Wood, 35, of Milewater Way, Jason Loughlin, 35, from Bryson Court, David Samuel McCrum, 32, from Beechgrove Drive, William Hinds, 46, of Ballycraigy Gardens, Mark Thompson, 36, of Ballyvesey Green, and David Smart, 37, of Milewater Close - all deny the litany of charges against them.
They are represented by 24 barristers and eight firms of solicitors and the trial is expected to run for up to three months.
The police investigation that led to the arrests was triggered by a damning report from the former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan, in 2007.
She said a UVF gang based in the Mount Vernon estate in north Belfast had been involved in more than a dozen murders in north Belfast and Newtownabbey.