killer tears | 

LVF godfather Jim Fulton 'cried like a baby' in police helicopter after arrest

The killer feared cops bringing him back to Ulster in a helicopter were about to dump him in the Irish Sea.

Jim Fulton

Steven Moore

LVF godfather Jim Fulton "cried like a baby" because he thought cops bringing him back to Ulster in a helicopter were about to dump him in the Irish Sea.

That's according to a new book, Operation George, which details the ground-breaking undercover investigation that snared the sectarian killer.

The 53-year-old terror chief, who is still languishing in Maghaberry Prison serving a 25-year minimum life sentence for murder and a host of other crimes, was caught after he was secretly taped bragging about his LVF past.

Fulton was jailed in January 2007 after being found guilty of 48 terrorist offences, including the sectarian murder of 59-year-old grandmother Elizabeth O'Neill, who died after picking up a pipe bomb which had been thrown through the living room window of her home at Corcrain Drive, Portadown on June 5, 1999.

Fulton, dubbed a 'genocide loyalist' by a judge because of his wish to exterminate Catholics, was also found guilty of six charges of attempted murder - four of them relating to police officers during the 1998 Drumcree dispute - and two offences of causing explosions in 1998 and 1999.

Now, undercover cops involved in his capture reveal the inside story of how they got him to 'confess' to it all.

Fulton had joined what he thought was an organised crime gang in Cornwall, when in fact the whole mob was made up of undercover police officers from England designed to snare Fulton and get him to admit his life of crime.

Penned by one of the undercover officers who inducted Fulton into the fake crime gang, Mark Dickens, along with co-author and former undercover cop Stephen Bentley, the book reveals how one of Ulster's most dangerous terrorists was caught.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday World from his home in the Philippines, Stephen Bentley revealed the efforts police in England went to in gathering the evidence required to put Fulton behind bars.

As well as dozens of cops posing as Fulton's criminal gang associates, they had to devise 'real' crimes and on one occasion convinced Fulton to give undercover officers the key to his Plymouth house under the pretence they were doing a DIY job as a surprise for his wife when in fact they were repairing bugging devices which had failed.

The 74-year-old also reveals how they had to keep the two-year operation a secret from almost everyone in the RUC as they didn't trust the force not to tip off Fulton.

Bentley said: "Operation George was one of the most audacious undercover stings in UK police history because normally you have a pukka OCG (Organised Crime Gang) with an undercover cop infiltrating it - but here they turned it around and completely faked an OCG and inducted the target into it.

"The team had created an alternative reality for Fulton, similar to something in The Truman Show."

But it was Fulton's reaction on finally being arrested which shocked police most.

"After they had enough evidence he was arrested by an armed unit from the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary at his house in Plymouth," he explains.

Former undercover cop Stephen Bentley who took down LVF killer Jim Fulton

"They took him back to Northern Ireland in a military helicopter and he started crying like a baby.

"He genuinely thought they were going to murder him, that they were going to open up the helicopter doors and drop him into the Irish Sea. I think he'd watched too many Vietnam movies.

"He was supposed to be one of Northern Ireland's hardest terrorists, but he was a complete mess during that flight. When he landed he regained his composure though."

Two years prior to his arrest, English police set up a covert listening plan - codenamed Operation George - as part of the investigation into the LVF booby trap murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson the day after Mothering Sunday in 1999 in Lurgan.

Prominent solicitor Rosemary Nelson who was killed in a booby trap car bomb attack

The probe was headed by Colin Port, the deputy chief Constable of Norfolk Constabulary had been sent to Northern Ireland after allegations of RUC collusion with loyalists in her murder.

Port set about drawing up a list of suspects for the no-warning car bomb attack on Nelson's silver BMW car as she drove to work.

And among those on his target list were Jim Fulton and Muriel Gibson Landry, known LVF terrorists from Portadown.

"Muriel Gibson had set up a new life in Plymouth and the team started by sending in an undercover officer called 'Liz' to target her.

Liz started telling Gibson how she knew this criminal called 'Neil' who was looking for a driver for a number of 'jobs' and asked her if she knew anyone.

"Gibson suggested Jim Fulton and gets on the phone and tells Jim he could make a good life away from Northern Ireland, where it was safe and he could make decent money working for this crime gang."

Muriel Gibson Landry

And that's where the book's co-author Mark Dickens comes in.

Dickens is not his real name as he has to protect his identity, but during Operation George he played the role of an associate of the crime gang leader 'Neil'.

"Fulton comes over and meets 'Neil'," explains Stephen Bentley, a former undercover cop himself who infiltrated a crime gang in the 1970s to secure the biggest ever drugs bust in the UK.

"Neil recruits Fulton as a driver and sets him up in a Renault Laguna which is fitted out with bugging devices.

The first job was supposed to be an armed robbery of a cash in transit van but they aborted that job basically because they thought the risk of introducing guns into a 'job' with someone like Fulton was too risky.

"The next scam which they went through with was the robbery of a HGV packed with booze which was parked up in Southampton.

"Fulton travelled down with other gang members including 'Robbie' where they 'stole' the trailer and tractor unit after the lorry driver had a sack put over his head and was bundled into a car.

The lorry, now on false plates, and its load were driven to a Bristol warehouse and met by a fleet of transit vans - all driven by undercover cops - who unloaded the trailer.

But once they were sure Fulton was in bed the vans all returned to the lorry and returned the booze to its rightful owner!"

Stephen says other scams involved stolen art and Fulton was paid just under £500 a week for his efforts.

"The gang had this 'stolen' painting which Fulton was told was worth thousands when in truth it was a snide Lowry which was worth ten bob. The painting wasn't stolen at all and luckily Jim didn't know much about fine art!

"That scam even got undercover officers from Belgium involved. All the time the operation was just to gain Fulton's trust and keep him talking about his past as a terrorist in Northern Ireland."

Although the operation had originally been set up to get Fulton admitting to his part in the murder of Rosemary Nelson, the book reveals he always denied he was involved.

Scene after the brutal murder of Rosemary Nelson

"The team waited until he'd spilled enough beans for a file to be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service but he would never admit to being involved in killing Rosemary Nelson," says Stephen.

"He wouldn't even implicate his brother Mark Fulton in that one but we say in the book there was plenty of evidence to suggest Mark was involved in the making of the bomb and also the planning of placing the bomb.

"By then the operation had gathered enough evidence to convict him of several terrorist offences."

The team had collected thousands of hours of tape and more than 4,000 typed transcripts were produced to nail Fulton for 48 terrorist crimes.

The subsequent trial was the longest in Northern Ireland criminal history and took the trial judge a full seven months to read through before giving his verdict. The book charts the details of that trial and Stephen Bentley reveals how the operation had been kept secret from the RUC.

"Everyone was aware of the allegations of collusion between the RUC and loyalists so only a couple of senior officers were even remotely aware of the operation," says Stephen.

"The RUC were definitely not in the loop because the team feared Fulton being tipped off and the whole operation being ruined.

"I know 'Mark Dickens' is immensely proud of the work he and his team did in bringing Jim Fulton to justice and in telling this story he will get pleasure from the details of their efforts being made public."

On the murder of Elizabeth O'Neill, Justice Hart commented: "His culpability for what happened is greater than anyone else involved in this episode. This was a very grave crime with many aggravating features."

His appeal against his conviction and sentence was rejected in June 2009 by Lord Justice Girvan, who said: "The clear picture from the recordings is of a ruthless and vicious individual devoid of human sympathy and steeped in deeply sectarian attitudes."

Jim Fulton will be entitled to apply for release from prison in four years' time.

- Published by Hendry Publishing, Operation George is available to order on Amazon in hardcover (RRP £24.99), paperback (£8.99) and Kindle format (£4.99)

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