It's difficult to challenge the notion, as contained in Anne Cadwallader's newly published book Lethal Allies, that Robin "the Jackal" Jackson probably was loyalism's most prolific sectarian killer.
It’s equally difficult to challenge the idea, again as Cadwallader writes based on her research, that he enjoyed a corrupt and indefensible relationship with enough RUC officers to protect him from ever facing a murder charge, leaving him free to continue killing people from 1973 to the 1990s.
It's estimated that as one of the key members of the Co Armagh Glennane gang of UVF members, aided by a number of RUC officers and Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers, he killed more than 50 people. The figure reflects his involvement in the 1974 Dublin-Monaghan bombings in which 33 people were killed, the 1975 attack on the Miami Showband and numerous other attacks in which mostly Catholics died in ones, twos, threes and fours.
He is said to have had a visceral hatred of Catholics and this is confirmed by one man who served with him in the UDR in the 1970s. "Jackson, what was he like? He was a sectarian killer, that's what he was like – but you were always glad to have him with you when you were out on patrol."
To avoid libel actions he became known to journalists by the soubriquet "the Jackal" – a name coined by the Sunday World.
As the book details, the only known victim to have questioned him directly was the son of a Catholic RUC officer, Joe Campbell, shot dead in Cushendall, Co Antrim, in February 1977, because, it is believed, he had learned too much about local loyalist/RUC links. Jackson denied involvement
He joined the UDR in Banbridge, Co Down, in 1973 and while in the regiment is believed to have murdered Banbridge trade unionist and father of three Patrick Campbell.
There was evidence against him but the only action taken was his dismissal from the UDR on March 4th, 1974, writes Cadwallader .
Was it at this stage that Jackson was "turned" by the RUC, she asks. At the end of June 1974, Colin Wallace, then a senior British army military intelligence officer, sent a memo to his HQ in Lisburn. He inquired who, on a list of loyalists that Wallace's "Psy-Ops" (psychological operations) unit wished to target, was working for military intelligence and therefore immune from his attentions.
Next to Jackson’s name, a note in Wallace’s own handwriting says: “Robin Jackson was charged with the murder of Patrick Campbell in October last year. Charges were dropped following RUC SB [special branch] intervention.”
On August 14th, 1975, Wallace wrote again to a senior British army contact listing Jackson as one of those involved in the 1974 Dublin bombings in which 26 people died.
The book also details how his prints were found on a specially adapted silencer for a Luger weapon used in the Miami Showband killings, in which five people died, including three members of the band. Jackson was charged with possessing the silencer (but not the gun), and a court cleared him of even this relatively minor charge.
Lethal Allies details other killings and sectarian attacks in which Jackson allegedly was involved.
In June 1998, two months after the signing of the Belfast Agreement, Jackson died from lung cancer, aged 49.
On June 4th, 1998, Colin Wallace – who 24 years earlier had written he was under the wing of RUC special branch – wrote: "He was a hired gun. A professional assassin. He was responsible for more deaths in the North than any other person I knew. The "Jackal" killed people for a living. The state not only knew he was doing it, its servants encouraged him to kill its political opponents and protected him."