Northern Ireland

Billy Wright timeline

Following the publication of a report into the 1997 murder of loyalist leader Billy Wright, BBC News looks at the timeline of events surrounding his life and death.


Billy Wright is born on 7 July in Wolverhampton, England, to a Northern Irish Protestant family. He was the only son in a family of five children.


Wright's parents separate and the young Billy moves to Northern Ireland with his four sisters. The children are put into care and six-year-old Billy is separated from his sisters. He lives for a time in a children's home in Mountnorris, a largely nationalist area of south Armagh, where he mixes with Catholics and plays Gaelic football.


A few months before his 16th birthday, Wright joins the youth wing of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary group responsible for the murders of more than 500 people through the course of the Troubles. Later in life, Wright said his decision was a reaction to the Kingsmill massacre in January of that year in which ten Protestants were killed by republicans. Several of his own relatives were also killed by republicans around this time, including his uncle, father-in-law and brother-in-law.


Wright is jailed for six years for arms offences and hijacking but only serves three-and-a-half at the Crumlin Road and Maze prisons.


Wright is released and moves briefly to Scotland but soon returns to Northern Ireland, settling in Portadown as an insurance salesman. He marries Thelma Corrigan, has two daughters and during this period also claims to have become a born-again Christian, preaching the gospel.


Wright rejoins the UVF, eventually becoming the organisation's mid-Ulster commander. He is thought to have ordered or participated in around 20 killings, most of which were sectarian. He was arrested on several occasions around this time but never charged.


The paramilitary leader diversifies into dealing drugs, mainly ecstasy. Around this time Sunday World journalists Martin O'Hagan and Jim Campbell coin the term "rat pack" for Wright's mid-Ulster unit and dub him "King Rat". By this time he had survived at least five attempts on his life by the IRA and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).


Catholic taxi driver Michael McGoldrick is shot dead near Lurgan in July - reportedly as a birthday present for Wright. He is thrown out of the UVF for this and other unauthorised attacks and threatened with execution, but defiantly sets up his own paramilitary group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF).


Wright is jailed at HMP Maghaberry in March for threatening to kill a woman if she gave evidence against a number of LVF members. A month later he is sent to the Maze. In May the LVF agree to a ceasefire - mainly to try to secure early release for Wright and other prisoners. The organisation is proscribed in June by then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam. On 27 December, Wright is shot dead by three INLA men inside the Maze.


In April, retired Canadian judge Peter Cory recommends independent inquiries into the murders of Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill and Billy Wright.


The Billy Wright Inquiry gets under way in May. Under the terms of reference the inquiry is asked to decide whether there was collusion in his murder.


The Billy Wright Inquiry publishes its report on 14 September. It says his murder was the result of serious failings by the prison service, and not state collusion. Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said the report also found there was a serious failure on the part of the NI Prison Service (NIPS) and its chief executive at the time, Alan Shannon, to deal with management issues at the prison. But Wright's father David said the inquiry into his son's death amounted to "firm and final" proof of collusion by state agencies.

The BBC's Greg Wood said Prime Minister David Cameron had previously indicated that there would be no further inquiries held - but our correspondent added that an investigation is likely to be launched, by the Northern Ireland Assembly, into how the prison service operates in Northern Ireland.

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