Inquest told loyalist's throat was cut

 

The murder of a top loyalist paramilitary was as barbaric as anything inflicted by the notorious Shankill Butchers gang 30 years ago, a Belfast inquest heard yesterday.

Geordie Legge (37), who was found with his throat cut and multiple stab wounds, is believed to have been killed in a bar owned by close associate Jim Gray, who was shot dead in the city last October.

Legge's body was found dumped at Carryduff on the eastern outskirts of Belfast in January 2001.

At the time, he was a senior member of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) who had fallen out with the organisation's so-called brigadiers.

Gray, another UFF leader, owned the Bunch of Grapes pub where Legge was believed to have been murdered, Det Insp Michael McErlane told senior coroner John Leckey.

Gray was one of five men later questioned about the murder, but was never charged.

Legge was a business partner of Gray, who headed an extensive racketeering empire.

Mr Leckey, who was told that the victim's throat had been slit with a six-inch knife, said it was the worst case he had seen since the Shankill Butchers' reign of terror during the Troubles.

He said: "I have been acting as coroner long enough to remember the Shankill Butchers and looking at this brings back memories of how their victims were treated. It really is dreadful, dreadful injuries," Mr Leckey said.

"It's a sobering thought that the person or persons responsible for this horrific murder are still walking the streets."

Mr Leckey said: "The deceased had loyalist paramilitary connections and was a senior figure in the UFF. Whilst no one has been made amenable for this murder, it is believed that loyalist paramilitaries within the UFF were responsible for his death.

"Police are satisfied that he was murdered in the Bunch of Grapes ... there's been no claim of responsibility."

Mr Leckey said the fact the victim was stabbed 15 times in the back and had his throat cut indicated a level of personal animosity.

During the hearing, he asked police why Mr Legge had not been shot.

Det Insp McErlane explained: "There was a reluctance by many organisations at that time to use firearms, to try to demonstrate their move towards accepting a peace process where weapons were no longer needed. There is a deep-seated grudge or difference between paramilitaries within paramilitary organisations."

The father-of-three's mother, Margaret, told the coroner's court she blamed Gray for the killing.

"I know they had had a few rows ... I heard him threatening to burn us out of the flat."