Billy Wright rejects `loyalist leader' label as he concludes evidence

 

THE Portadown loyalist Mr Billy Wright (36) yesterday rejected the label of "loyalist leader". He was giving evidence at his Belfast Crown Court trial where he denies issuing death threats to a 42-year-old divorced mother of four in August 1995.

Mr Wright told Lord Justice McCollum he did not accept he was a loyalist leader, although he has been described as such by his own lawyer. "I don't perceive myself to be of importance - that's other people's perception of me.

He did accept, however, he hoped to have an impact on the current situation in Northern Ireland. "We all hope for peace," he said, adding that he "tried to help out in the community" when asked if he thought himself capable of settling disputes without police involvement.

Mr Wright went on to claim that the woman he denies threatening to shoot, Mrs Gwen Reed, was accusing him because they did not "get on". He said the difficulties between them came about because he had "crossed swords with a number of her boyfriends".

At the end of Mr Wright's second day in the witness box he concluded his evidence, as he had begun, by maintaining his innocence.

Mr Wright rejected prosecution suggestions that he had threatened Mrs Reed and her teenage son Thomas because they were guilty of the "unpardonable act" of talking to the police.