funeral massacre  | 

Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair says he was mesmerised by Michael Stone's attack on Milltown cemetery

'I'd never seen anything like it,' Johnny Adair told the Sunday World

Loyalist leader Johnny Adair pictured on the Shankill Road

Hugh Jordan

The Milltown Massacre was a life-changing experience for future terror chief Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair, the Sunday World has learned.

He watched the deadly drama unfold live on TV from his home on the Shankill Road.

At 25, Adair was still relatively unknown outside loyalist circles - although like Stone's new-found fame, that was all about to change.

Adair was mesmerised by what he saw at Milltown. "I couldn't believe it.

"Here was a loyalist who had single-handedly attacked an IRA funeral.

"I'd never seen anything like it," Adair told the Sunday World this week.

"Stone's actions motivated loyalists like me. He was my hero and many other young loyalists felt the same. I even went to his trial," he said.

"The attitude of UDA leaders at that time was typified days later when they contacted the IRA to say they didn't know Stone and he had nothing to do with them.

"They were afraid for their own skin," he said.

Adair added: "I had many disagreements with Stone in jail, but he definitely had courage to do what he did."

But the UDA leadership was telling the truth. It didn't know the identity of the lone gunman at Milltown. He wasn't a member of any loyalist paramilitary group.

Michael Stone on the rampage at Milltown Cemetery in 1988

He had simply enlisted the help of a former soldier and the son of a former Red Hand Commando leader from the Braniel estate.

And because of that connection, when he first entered the prison system, he did so as a UVF prisoner. It was weeks later the UDA claimed him because it didn't have a big name hero.

Michael Anthony Stone was born in Birmingham to an Irish Catholic mother Mary Bridget O'Sullivan and Protestant father Cyril Alfred Stone.

And when his parents parted, Stone at the age of seven was sent to live with the family of his father's sister in loyalist east Belfast.

John and Margaret Gregg raised Stone alongside their own children at Ravenswood Park on the Braniel estate. He was baptised in St John's Church of Ireland, where he sang in the choir. Residents remember him being polite and well spoken with a slight English inflection in his voice when he arrived there in 1962.

Michael Stone

"Michael Stone was quiet and standoffish as a boy," recalls his childhood friend Jim Murtagh.

"He was always seen as a kind of oddball and a loner, an outsider even. But he loved being with the rest of his wee gang up in the woods behind the Braniel. He loved knives and catapults and torturing small animals, although he loved dogs.

"But Michael had absolutely no interest in Orangeism or loyalist bands or even Rangers. We joined the army cadets together. And we learned how to polish our boots and web belts, but that was as near as we got to an army," said Jim.

Jim says that when his family were forced out of the Braniel at the outbreak of the Troubles, they were allocated a house in Twinbrook. And it wasn't long before Stone tracked him down, asking for his help.

"I couldn't believe it. There was Michael Stone standing in Twinbrook in his denim jacket. He had a James Connolly badge in his lapel and he said he wanted to join the Provies. He said he wanted to be a freedom fighter.

"The truth is the 'Hole in the Wall' gang was gone and he wanted a new gang - and the bigger the better.

"We told him to wise up, but he insisted. Murtagh eventually sent Stone to the home of an IRA man who later recruited Bobby Sands into the IRA, but he chased him. Stone had no real identity and he was desperate to find one," said Jim.

As the Troubles intensified, Jim and Stone lost touch. But three days before the Milltown Massacre, Jim was driving past Belfast City Hall when he spotted his old friend standing on the pavement.

"I got out and spoke to Stone. I noticed he had put on a lot of weight and I asked how he was. Stone said he was suffering from depression.

"Three days later Milltown happened. Surely someone should have spotted something wrong in Michael Stone. The Troubles turned ordinary boys who needed a bit of help into killers," Murtagh insisted.

He added: "When Michael Stone went into Milltown that day, he didn't do it for God and Ulster - he did it for himself."

Mad Dog: Killing spree in cemetery mesmerised me

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