Man charged over murders of NI workers 20 years ago

Evidence from loyalist supergrass used to charge James Smyth over 1994 deaths, court hears

Evidence of a loyalist supergrass was used to bring charges over the murders of two workmen in Belfast in 1994.

Evidence of a loyalist supergrass was used to bring charges over the murders of two workmen in Belfast in 1994.


Evidence from a loyalist supergrass was used to charge a man with the murders of two Catholic workmen 20 years ago, Belfast Magistrates Court heard.

James Smyth’s lawyer claimed the case against him is based on information supplied by Gary Haggarty.

Mr Smyth (48), is accused of the double killing of Gary Convie and Eamon Fox in north Belfast in May 1994.

He was detained by detectives investigating a campaign of murder and serious crime committed by the Ulster Volunteer Force. Mr Convie, who was 24, and Mr Fox, who was 44, were gunned down as they sat eating lunch in a car at a North Queen Street building site.

Mr Smyth, from Forthriver Link, Belfast, faces further charges of attempting to murder of a third man, Donal Laverty, in the same attack and possessing a Sten submachine gun and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

He was refused bail at Belfast Magistrates’ Court due to the risk of interference with witnesses in the case.

Friends and supporters of the defendant packed the public gallery as he was led into the dock. After the alleged offences were put to him Mr Smyth replied: “Not guilty of all charges.”

It emerged during the hearing that he had been a life sentence prisoner released under the terms of the Belfast Agreement 14 years ago.

A detective sergeant said the defendant’s DNA was the major profile found on a coat the gunman is believed to have worn.

A similar match was also recovered from a woollen hat allegedly connected to the investigation, the court heard.

Under cross-examination by defence lawyer John Greer, the detective confirmed other profiles had been retrieved as well. During a series of exchanges the solicitor repeatedly referred to 41-year-old Haggarty, a former senior loyalist turned assisting offender.

“The evidence is based on the supergrass Gary Haggarty,” Mr Greer contended.

Although the detective replied by stressing the DNA link, he accepted: “There is an assisting offender statement, yes.”

Bail was opposed amid claims that Mr Smyth would interfere with the course of justice or interfere with civilian witnesses. But his lawyer argued that another man already charged with the murders has been released from custody.

Angry outbursts greeted the decision to refuse bail. Some of the accused’s supporters, who also staged a protest outside court, shouted “Political policing” and “scum”. Another told the detective: “Don’t smile, hang your head in shame.”