PUP's Winston Irvine at centre of historical inquiry into four murders
UVF chief Winston Irvine is at the centre of an historical inquiry into four murders.
The Police Ombudsman’s office has launched an investigation into four killings spanning a decade, and B Company boss Irvine is the common denominator.
Ironically, Irvine this week shared a platform with PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, a day before it was revealed the four shootings were to form part of a single inquiry.
The murders – two of them during the UVF/UDA feud in 2000 – were carried out by Irvine’s Woodvale-based terror group.
The deaths of prominent loyalists Jackie Coulter and Bobby Mahood, gunned down as they sat in a car on the Crumlin Road, the murder in 2005 of 20-year-old Craig McCausland at his home in Dhu Varren Park, north Belfast, and the fatal daylight shooting of Bobby Moffett on the Shankill Road in May 2010 are to be investigated together.
Irvine, a prominent member of the PUP, political wing of the UVF, remains a senior figure in the terror group having held the rank of commander for more than 15 years.
This week UVF men told the Sunday World they were aghast that Irvine shared a platform with Mr Hamilton when the police chief knows about the McCausland murder.
The 41-year-old was in charge of B Company during the loyalist feud. There is no suggestion he was directly involved in the Coulter/Mahood murders but it was carried out by one of his men.
Shot dead: Jackie Coulter
The shooter is believed to have been inexperienced and mistook Mahood for his brother Jackie, a leading LVF figure and believed to have been the intended target.
The UVF didn’t claim responsibility but some days later the PUP admitted their armed wing was responsible.
Five years later he was a central figure in the brutal slaying of father-of-one McCausland. A UVF hit-team hammered down the door of the home he shared with his then partner and her two children.
Craig, who was father to a two-year-old son, was murdered as he emerged from an upstairs room. Irvine and another man were arrested and questioned in connection with the murder, but later released.
No one has ever been convicted of the outrage, despite weapons being uncovered in a follow-up search.
It has long been suspected McCausland’s killing involved a security force agent, and it is now expected that lawyers acting for the dead man’s family will press the police for access to sensitive papers.
The Sunday World understands Irvine has been named in a number of submissions made to Ombudsman investigators and 18 months ago he was questioned in relation to an earlier punishment attack meted out to McCausland three years before his death.
A cloud of suspicion also hangs over the broad daylight murder of Bobby Moffett five-and-a-half years ago.
The 44-year-old was shot in the face by two masked men as he stood on a busy Shankill Road.
His execution was ordered after he was involved in an altercation with leading UVF man Joe McGaw. His killers, understood to have been members of B Company, took pictures of their victim before circulating them via mobile phone.
Again no one has ever been convicted of the killing.
Pressure is mounting on the security services and Public Prosecution Service for full disclosure of all material in the wake of Lord Justice Weir’s review of unfinished inquests some of which date back more than four decades.
Startling allegations of police cover-up and ineptitude have peppered the proceedings.
And it has become clear that statements given to police by supergrass Gary Haggarty have the potential to blow the lid off historical cases.
The former UVF brigadier has spent the last five years detailing his involvement and that of others in more than 300 paramilitary crimes including a raft of murders.
Haggarty had been working as a police agent while an active member of the UVF and he is expected to reveal highly sensitive and potentially explosive revelations on security force involvement in terrorist crime.
The Sunday World understands he will claim to have informed his handlers about plans to murder Raymond McCord jnr in 1997.
It is understood he made two telephone calls to Special Branch from his prison cell, claiming to have left voice mail messages.
There was no police response and the young McCord lost his life in a brutal attack carried out by Mount Vernon UVF at a quarry on the outskirts of Belfast.
Last night the dead man’s father said he was confident the full story of security force collusion in murder will emerge.
“The government has already acknowledged my son’s murder involved collusion,” he said.
“Families know the police and the PPS will have to be dragged kicking and screaming but we will do everything in our power to get access to police papers.
“When we do I expect to see a lot of very familiar names.”