Stone found guilty of attemped murder
Stone found guilty of attemped murder

Loyalist killer Michael Stone was found guilty today of attempting to murder Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness in a one-man armed attack on the Stormont Assembly.

The 53-year-old former UDA leader was convicted at Belfast Crown Court of the infamous incident in November 2006 when he stormed the building, while the Assembly was in session, armed with explosives and other weapons.

Stone, who gained notoriety in 1988 when he killed three mourners at an IRA funeral in West Belfast, claimed his actions at Stormont were all part of an elaborate performance art display.

Delivering his judgment in the non-jury trial, Mr Justice Deeney rejected this claim as being “wholly undeserved of belief”.

TV cameras in situ to cover political developments in the North’s stalling peace process captured the moment a hobbling Stone burst through the revolving doors and was trapped in a doorway by two security guards, but not before he flung a hissing device into Stormont’s Great Hall.

The judge said defence evidence that Stone had been taking part in some sort of a “comic parody” was “hopelessly unconvincing” and “self-contradictory”.

“I am satisfied that Mr Stone went to Stormont to try and murder the two Sinn Féin leaders on November 24, 2006,” he said.

A number of Stone’s former allies in the unionist paramilitary UDA described the failed attack on Stormont as amounting to a kind of self-parody of Stone’s 1988 Milltown cemetery attack, apparently motivating his defence strategy.

As well as the two attempted murder charges, he was convicted on seven other counts, including possession of nail bombs, three knives, a garrotte and an axe, as well as causing criminal damage to the Stormont building.

During the four-and-a-half-week trial defence lawyers had argued that these weapons were all “props”, while letters Stone sent to two journalists outlining his intention to kill the senior republicans were also part of his “script”.

The piece of interpretative theatre was designed to expose the hypocrisy of local politicians, the multiple killer had claimed.

But Crown prosecutors dismissed these theories as nonsense, accusing Stone of dreaming them up after the event in a bid to explain away murderous intentions.

The judge concurred with that assessment today and said the defence had failed to put any doubt in his mind that Stone had set out to kill the senior republicans.

He asked if it was supposed to be some form of act that had Stone admitted his desire to kill the men during police interview after his arrest.

“If this had really been a mere protest, that was the time to tell the police,” he said.

After the verdict was read out, Stone, dressed in trademark denim jacket and jeans, shouted from the dock: “It is another concession to the Shinners (Sinn Féin).”

The event happened four months before the historic power-sharing deal between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists on the day Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were due to be nominated as Northern Ireland’s new First and Deputy First Ministers.

The trial, which was interrupted in June when Stone sacked some of his legal team, ended in late September with Mr Deeney taking the last six weeks to reach today’s judgment.

Stone, who was released from prison on licence under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement, will be sentenced next month.

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