A unionist paramilitary convicted of 12 sectarian murders continued to be paid by police after his release from prison, it has emerged.
In March 1993, UDA killer Torrens Knight murdered four Catholic workmen at Castlerock in County Derry. Seven months later Knight was part of another UDA murder gang which shot dead eight people at the Greysteel Bar outside Derry on Halloween night.
Customers at first thought it was a Halloween joke as the attackers shouted “trick or treat” before the shooting began.
Knight was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in two of the worst atrocities of the conflict but released from prison under the Good Friday Agreement early release scheme in July 2000.
However, it has been claimed Knight continued to be paid as a Special Branch agent even after his release from prison.
Earlier this year it was reported that Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan was investigating claims that Knight was protected as a Special Branch informer at the time of the Castlerock and Greysteel murders.
Knight’s Special Branch handlers are believed to have moved two high- powered rifles from a river in mid-1993 after local anglers had alerted police to their discovery.
The weapons were later used by Knight’s gang in the Greysteel massacre.
However, new allegations have emerged that Special Branch officers created a bogus bank account in 2000 to allow Torrens to receive 50 thousand pounds sterling a year.
Bank staff at the branch became suspicious when Knight withdrew two sums of cash, claiming to be working for an engineering firm in Scotland.
Bank officials are believed to have voiced concerns to police but were informed there was nothing unusual about the transaction. However, it is understood the bogus account was closed soon after the bank made known its concern.
SDLP assembly member John Dallat last night said he was disturbed by the claims that Knight continued to be paid by Special Branch even after his release.
“These allegations are deeply disturbing,” he said.
“I sincerely hope that the ombudsman investigation can uncover the truth as to what was happening with this individual.
“I gave police every cooperation in early 1993 to help take this man off the streets, but it didn’t happen.
“I want to know how many people were needlessly killed if this individual was being protected by Special Branch at that time.”
A spokesman for the ombudsman’s office has confirmed that it was investigating claims that Special Branch deliberately moved weapons to protect Knight as an informer in 1993.
A PSNI spokeswoman refused to comment on the allegation that the mass murderer continued to be paid as an agent even after his release from prison.