Winston Rea trial: Billy Wright was 'state sponsored agent'

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Image source, Pacemaker
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Winston 'Winkie' Rea denies the 19 charges against him

Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) founder Billy Wright was a state-sponsored agent, Belfast Crown Court has heard.

It was also alleged that Wright, who was killed by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in the Maze Prison in 1997, was one of a number of terror bosses in the pay of the state.

The claims emerged in tapes played in the trial of Winston 'Winkie' Rea.

Mr Rea, 69, is facing 19 charges relating to offences allegedly committed between 1973 and 1996.

They include aiding and abetting the murders of two Catholics - John Devine in 1989 and John O'Hara in 1991 - as well as conspiracy to make a threat to kill Wright in August 1996.

Mr Rea, of Springwell Road, Groomsport, County Down, denies all charges.

The charges against Mr Rea are based on contributions the prosecution say he made to an oral history project at Boston College in the United States.

The prosecution in the Diplock-style non-jury trial claim that the voice which can be heard on the tapes, identified as "interviewee L", is Mr Rea.

According to the prosecution, Mr Rea allegedly admitted on the Boston tape that, in hindsight, he did not think a public threat should have been given to the self-styled LVF leader.

"Well, my own personal view was that the, the head of the snake should have been taken off, but unfortunately that didn't happen," Mr Rea is alleged to have said.

In the recording, the interviewee said that Wright remained untouchable because of the "key" supporters he claimed to have, and that a "blind eye" was turned to what he was doing.

The speaker said that the "unfortunate thing about it is, was people were believing him [Wright].

The speaker added that Wright was believed because he was the "one who fed the diet of false strength".

'They didn't want Prods killing Prods'

The interviewee said that what he was "basically saying" was that he thought "Billy Wright was, is, also an agent and at a later date it will be clearly exposed".

He earlier alleged that the murdered LVF leader was not the only paid agent, and while he did not have "the evidence", he said: "I think in later years that all this will come out".

"I think there's a brave few yet has to come out of the cupboard," the interviewee added.

The speaker said that while some may have suspected, as he had, "deep-down", no-one wanted to believe what was going on, and for "genuine reasons".

"And the genuine reason, reason was they didn't, they didn't want Prods killing Prods, or loyalists killing loyalists, or killing so-called loyalists, and you had that difficulty."

He also said that another reason was that you had could have grandfathers, fathers, and sons "on one side", and uncles, nephews and other family members on the other, leading to what was "a difficult, difficult situation".

According to the speaker, another matter that was "abundantly clear, was that these so-called people were able to get away with literally murder and I believe that the biggest majority of them again worked for the state".

"And because they fed a diet of information against the mainstream loyalist paramilitaries, a blind eye was turned, and again at a later date, I think that the things I am saying here will come true," the last of the tapes concluded.