Men guilty of Johnny Adair and Sam McCrory murder plot
Three men have been found guilty of planning to murder two ex-leaders of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
Antoin Duffy, 39, his cousin Martin Hughes, 36, and Paul Sands, 32, all denied plotting to kill Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair and Sam McCrory in Scotland.
They were convicted after a nine-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow.
Duffy and Hughes were also convicted of terrorism charges. Two other men, Craig Convery and Gordon Brown, were found guilty of organised crime charges.
The court heard that Mr Adair and his best friend Mr McCrory were both former members of prohibited Loyalist terror organisations the UDA and its paramilitary wing the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF).
They were involved in the Good Friday agreement in 1998 which brought peace to Northern Ireland, and both have been living in Ayrshire for a number of years.
Duffy, originally from Donegal, who had been living in Scotland, was the driving force behind the murder plot.
Described as passionate about a united Ireland, he believed the peace agreement had sold out the Republican movement.
Duffy initially planned operations from his cell in Castle Huntly open prison having been jailed in 2010 for brandishing a loaded handgun in a Glasgow nightclub during a dispute with a bouncer.
Every four weeks, when he received home leave back to his flat in Old Castle Road, Glasgow, Duffy talked to criminal associates in a bid to obtain weapons.
He also enlisted his cousin, Martin Hughes, and recruited fellow prisoner Paul Sands - a Facebook friend of Mr McCrory - who knew about McCrory's daily routine.
What the men did not know, however, was that MI5 had learned of their plans and had authorised the bugging of Duffy's flat and Hughes' car.
The trial heard that paperwork for the surveillance operation was so secretive there was no signature on it.
The surveillance began in 12 December 2012 and was later handed over to Police Scotland.
The court heard that Duffy believed Mr Adair and Mr McCrory were responsible for ordering the murders of dozens of innocent Catholics during the Troubles.
Evidence was presented that he wanted to shoot Mr McCrory using a pistol or revolver and then quickly target Mr Adair using an AK 47, which he dubbed "the big fella".
In a bugged conversation he was heard boasting to his girlfriend Stacey McAllister: "I'm trying to get a war started and get as many guns and explosives as I can."
A recording was also played from a conversation in Hughes' Mercedes Jeep, which travelled from Glasgow to the Ayrshire home of Mr McCrory on 1 October 2013.
On the tape Sands said: "There are so many places you could hit this guy. It's unbelievable.
"I mean I could go and and chap his door right now and we could probably put him in the boot if three of us could manage it, know what I mean."
Duffy then said: 'A sawn-off and a revolver as the back up.'"
As the Jeep approached the street in which McCrory lived, Sands was heard to say: "This is the road he walks every single day. You can't go wrong. It is a straight road."
There were then discussions about cameras at a nearby school and shops and the best vantage points to get their target.
Duffy went on: "I just need a quick look. I almost hit him a couple of years ago."
He then added: "We'll just drive up to him and...blast him. In his ear.
"There 's an AK that could possibly be getting made available for us with armour piercing rounds.
"The thing about that is that's it's too...high profile for this first. We want to get the fella out the blue and not have the other running scared."
Duffy's cellmate in Castle Huntly, Edward McVeigh, 27, revealed that Duffy hated Adair and talked of shooting him as he walked his dog or trained at the gym.
He said that Duffy was a Republican sympathiser who claimed he was a member of the Real IRA.
The trial also heard that Duffy even approached Celtic player Anthony Stokes in the Brazen Head pub in Glasgow on 1 September, asking him to get his father to pass a message on to someone in Ireland to obtain weapons.
Regulars reacted furiously to this and Duffy was thrown out of the pub.
In evidence Mr McCrory admitted that the killing of him and Mr Adair would be "huge scalps for dissident Republican groups."
Mr Adair said that in October 2013 he returned from holiday to be told by police that his life was in danger from dissident Republicans and to step up his security.
He added: "All that was supposed to be over, but from their point of view I would see myself as a target as a leader of Loyalism."
QC Derek Ogg, representing Duffy, claimed that his client was a fantasist, not a terrorist, and said he was addicted to the drug Tramadol and suffering from four mental issues, including post traumatic stress disorder.
Hughes' QC Gordon Jackson said his client had not agreed to murder anyone and was just trying to keep his cousin happy by agreeing with him.
Donald Findlay QC, representing Sands, said that his client's only involvement was in a discussion during the car journey in Ayrshire.
He added: "Mr Sands is a total idiot. He says that himself. He says that when he hears the tape of him in the car with Duffy and Hughes he cringes. He says what he says, but he wasn't going to do anything."
The jury, however, did not believe the three men's claims and convicted them of conspiracy to murder.
Judge Lady Scott deferred sentence on all five men until next month and ordered background reports on all of them and a psychiatric report on Duffy.
Police Scotland said all five convictions were the result of two major investigations into "a murder gang" and "the activities of a major organised crime group".
The force said it had began Operation Hairsplitter in September 2012 "to investigate an attempt to procure firearms by a gang led by Duffy".
Det Supt Andy Gunn, who led Operation Hairsplitter, said: "Antoin Duffy was the main instigator of the plot to kill two men, due to his twisted ideology to further the aims of dissident republican terrorism.
"He is a dangerous man who was determined to see this conspiracy through to its conclusion.
"I have no doubt that were it not for the intervention of the authorities in an operation led by Police Scotland, we would have been left investigating a double murder in an act of terrorism carried out in our communities."
Police Scotland said that following the arrest of Duffy, Sands and Hughes in October 2013, their inquiry into serious organised crime led them to the arrests of Convery and Brown.
Convery, of Renfrewshire, ran a group which distributed drugs and guns across Scotland.