Files on infamous unionist paramilitary leader Billy ‘King Rat’ Wright have been deliberately destroyed or ‘lost’, an inquiry into his murder has been told.

As the tribunal set up to investigate alleged state collusion in the assassination of Wright began public hearings, it emerged that key documents understood to be in the possession of police, prison and intelligence services were not made available.

Wright, who led the vicious Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), was ambushed by members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) inside the highly fortified Long Kesh prison in December 1997.

He was shot dead as he sat in the back of a minibus waiting to go on a prison visit.

After studying his case, retired Canadian judge Peter Cory recommended three years ago that an inquiry should be set up to examine allegations of collusion in his killing, as well as three others to examine the murders of nationalists.

Amid claims that the republican INLA were assisted by the authorities in killing a dangerous unionist paramilitary, a lawyer for the Wright family launched a scathing attack on the regime inside the jail.

Alan Kane told the inquiry at Banbridge courthouse in County Down that ‘security’ had been compromised “with the knowledge, connivance and acquiescence of the upper echelons of the Prison Service and the political establishment”.

Wright, who left the larger UVF after a bitter dispute and set up the LVF, has been linked to scores of sectarian attacks and murders.

His father, David Wright, who attended yesterday’s opening, has demanded to know how the three-man INLA team was able to get to their target.

They managed to climb unseen through a hole in security fencing and clambered over a roof before shooting him.


But the question over obtaining all possible papers from the relevant authorities was central to the first day of the inquiry.

“Thousands of prison documents and journals have been deliberately destroyed or disappeared,” Mr Kane told the inquiry.

Derek Batchelor QC, senior counsel for the inquiry, also disclosed problems in obtaining material.

The inquiry has experienced difficulties and delays in obtaining documents, primarily from the PSNI, he said.

This was despite issuing four formal legal notices requesting the handover of information stretching back to November 2005.

Mr Batchelor said the inquiry had received a volume of papers only this month.

There were also gaps in the documentation supplied by prison authorities and MI5, he said.

Inquiry chairman Lord MacLean, who will oversee proceedings expected to involve up to 180 witnesses, also told how relevant material had not always been supplied as quickly as possible.

“Although hearings start today, the inquiry’s investigatory work is still not complete,” he said.

“This is due to a number of factors, not least the speed at which material has been provided to the inquiry, particularly from the Police Service of Northern Ireland.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News