Loyalist leaves legacy of unanswered questions

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The sudden death of a prominent UDA paramilitary in Scotland has brought home the failure of the authorities to investigate the acts of collusion he was involved in with British forces.

Sam McCrory was discovered dead on Sunday, July 24, after suffering heavy injuries. Police in Scotland described the death as “unexplained”.

McCrory had been a leading member of the UDA in west Belfast alongside Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair. The pair fled west Belfast to Scotland in the aftermath of a bitter loyalist feud that resulted in the 2003 murder of South East Antrim UDA commander John Gregg.

A significant fraction of the history of the UDA’s collusion with British Crown Forces may have died with McCrory.

In 1992 he was part of a unionist death squad which was intercepted as they made their way to kill senior republicans Brian Gillen and Martin Lynch in Belfast. He was arrested, but by that time he he had already been involved in, or linked to, the murders of at least ten people.

Among them was innocent pensioner Francisco Notarantonio, a father-of-11 from west Belfast who was murdered in October 1987, after plans to attack one of Britain’s top spies in the Provisional IRA, Freddie Scappaticci (‘Stakeknife’) were suspiciously diverted at the last minute.

McCrory was released in 1998 as part of the Good Friday Agreement, having spent seven years in prison.

In 2000, he was at the centre of a major feud between rival loyalist paramilitary groups, the UDA and UVF. By the time the feud was over, seven people were dead and 600 families had been displaced from their homes. He was subsequently filmed back in Belfast as part of a TV documentary series on very violent people, visiting his former West Belfast neighbourhood wearing body armour.

Noreen Notarantonio, who was just 14 when her father was killed, said the death of the UDA hitman brings her family no closer to justice. She described McCrory as a “state-sponsored killer”, and said her family believes there was collusion in the murder.

“We believe that the UDA murder of my father was carried out under the full remit of the British state, and it is indeed a matter of regret, that with the death of the chief suspect, our family, like so many others, is no closer to either discovering the truth or achieving justice.”

She added that her family will continue with their campaign for justice.

“In the wake of the death of state-sponsored killer Sam McCrory, the Notarantonio family wishes to state publicly that it remains committed to seeking justice in regard to the murder of our father Francisco,” she said.

Ms Notarantonio was also critical of British government legacy proposals, branding them “a crass attempt to prevent ongoing or future truth and justice processes from occurring within the credible legal or investigative parameters”.

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