Supergrass witness denies 'spin'

Published Thursday, 13 October 2011
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The loyalist supergrass trial has heard prosecution witness Robert Stewart deny going to the authorities to "spin a story".

The 37-year-old self-confessed UVF terrorist also dismissed as "rubbish" defence suggestions he and his brother had represented themselves, not as UVF members, but as victims under duress from the loyalist paramilitaries.

Stewart is giving evidence against 14 alleged UVF men, nine of whom are accused of murdering rival UDA chief Tommy English.

Stewart, who revealed that he is back on a course of prescription drugs, such as beta-blockers to keep him "calm ... so you don't panic", also admitted to trial judge Mr Justice Gillen he can't explain how he failed to name two alleged gunmen in his first interviews.

Mr Justice Gillen said he had a number of issues to "wrestle with", and asked Stewart why, as defence counsel may argue, he had "left out" the two names.

Initially Stewart claimed that if asked by detectives he was sure he would have been able to name them, as he "would have knew who it was", before explaining, as he has in the past, that his nerves got the best of him.

Earlier the Belfast Crown Court trial was played a tape recording of Stewart's first interview with officers from the Historical Enquiries Team in August 2008.

Defence QC Eilis McDermott initially put it to Stewart that when he went into Antrim PSNI Station for the first time, he "represented" himself, not as a UVF man, "but as a civilian living in New Mossley put under duress by the UVF".

Stewart claimed that his failure to tell the HET detectives he was a member of the UVF was "an oversight on my part".

The informer was to repeat the answer when Ms McDermott pointed out that he had also told the HET that the reason the UVF had picked on him was "probably because you were on the bureau".

Ms McDermott later put it to Stewart that what he had said about the run-up the murder of Mr English, was "a sob story" he was attempting to spin.

Stewart rejected the suggestion, claiming what he had told the HET team was the truth "apart from the lies and the bits I left out", and because he was "nervous", he "would have been happy enough with that account".

However, Ms McDermott pressed Stewart further claiming the reason he and his brother insisted on speaking only to detectives from the HET was because "you would not have gotten this nonsense off the ground".

Local detectives from the PSNI, suggested the lawyer, would have known him and he "would have been laughed at".

"You wanted to try and spin them a line, a line you knew you could not spin to the local police," added Ms McDermott.

"That's absolute rubbish," replied Stewart, claiming they could not trust the local police and that what he told the HET was "90 per cent of that is the truth".

Ms McDermott claimed the brothers had decided to "spin the HET a story to see how it would float... a very elaborate story".

Stewart in turn suggested that given the amount and type of medication he was on at the time it was "a very elaborate story to make up."

© UTV News
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