Loyalist 'supergrass' to face trial for 202 offences, including five murders
A so-called loyalist supergrass is to stand trial accused of 202 offences including five terrorist murders.
Gary Haggarty, 44, who is also charged with five attempted murders, 25 counts of conspiracy to murder, directing terrorism and membership of a proscribed organisation appeared before a judge at Belfast Magistrates' Court.
It was the first time the suspected Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) commander, turned police informant, has appeared in the dock in almost a decade and there was a significant police presence both inside and outside the Laganside complex.
District Judge Fiona Bagnall said she was content there was enough evidence for the high-profile case to proceed to the Crown Court.
"I am satisfied that there is sufficient to proceed at this stage," the judge said.
Haggarty, whose address was listed as c/o of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), spoke a number of times during the brief hearing confirming he had received a file detailing the litany of charges and that he understood them.
He replied "no, not at this stage" when asked if he wished to respond to the allegations, give evidence or call witnesses.
Haggarty, who is believed to have been living at a secret location in England since he signed an agreement to become an assisting offender under the terms of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) six years ago, was escorted into court through a side door by two specialist police officers.
Dressed in a dark suit, grey shirt, grey tie and poppy, he kept his arms by his side, stared straight and showed little emotion ahead as details of the charged were read out during the preliminary enquiry.
Senior prosecutor Ciaran Murphy QC submitted that he had a case to answer.
The lawyer said the number of charges was so voluminous that a "short form" statement of complaint would have to be used. He also indicated that a number of allegations had been dropped while others had been amended.
The catalogue of alleged offences stretch over a 16-year period from 1991 to 2007 and include the loyalist murders of John Harbinson, Sean McParland, Gary Convie, Eamon Fox and Sean McDermott.
The lengthy charge sheet also includes aiding and abetting murder, kidnap, possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives as well as hijacking, false imprisonment, arson, intimidation and conspiracy to riot.
Relatives of some of the alleged victims were in court for the brief hearing.
A number of well-known senior loyalists were also in the public gallery.
Outside there was a significant police presence.
Releasing Haggarty on continuing bail with undisclosed conditions, the judge said he would be returned to trial at the Crown Court on a date to be fixed.
He was escorted out of court by a number of armed police officers and did not glance at the public gallery or make any further comment.
Afterwards Michael Monaghan, a son-in-law of Sean McParland, said it had been a difficult day.
He said: "It has taken near enough 10 years.
"The families need closure. It has been going on too long. The people who were involved in these murders have to be accounted for.
"As soon as it goes into the Crown Court we look forward to getting some closure for the families."
Mr Monaghan was also critical of the legal system which he described as "wrong".