A police double agent involved in the loyalist murder of an innocent Catholic grandfather used his protected status to participate in multiple killings and “criminal mayhem”, the High Court has heard.
Despite admitting to his role in the murder, Special Branch handlers shielded him as he continued to perpetrate atrocities as a Crown Force agent.
UVF commander-turned-supergrass Gary Haggarty has already pleaded guilty and been convicted of the murder as part of a huge catalogue of crime, including the sectarian assassination of Sean McParland in his north Belfast home in 1994.
In emotional testimony in court, one of the victim’s grandchildren recalled witnessing him beg with the UVF paramilitary death squad as he carried out babysitting duties at the house on Skegoniel Avenue in February 1994.
His four grandchildren are now suing the PSNI (formerly RUC) for failures in how the RUC handled another double agent involved in the killing, referred to only as ‘Informant 1’.
Compensation is being sought for the mental injuries and trauma they were exposed to. The PSNI have already admitted negligence and misfeasance in public office and the case now centres on damages.
The court heard how the killers tricked Mr McParland’s grandson Michael Monaghan Jr, then aged nine, into opening the door to the family’s home.
One of the masked men pointed the gun at the child before targeting the murder victim, who had been recovering from throat cancer.
Breaking down as he recalled the events, Mr Monaghan (pictured) said: “As my grandfather came into the room he dropped to his knees and I could see him begging (not to shoot).
“The four of us (grandchildren) ran out of the house as another gunman passed us. We were hysterical at that point… we were making our way out onto Skegoniel Avenue when we heard the shots.”
Following the shooting Mr Monaghan suffered feelings of guilt for letting the gunmen into the house, the court heard.
“For a long time I probably blamed myself for opening the door and for what happened,” he added.
“It was only in the last couple of years that I realised I wasn’t in the wrong. These people came to our house to do what they did.”
The shooting of Mr McParland was one of five murders Haggarty admitted as part of a deal where he became an “assisting offender” in order to secure a reduced prison sentence.
But the unnamed paramilitary, ‘Informant 1’, also played a central role in the killing, the court was told. That agent was allegedly involved in 10 murders, 10 attempted murders and a vast array of other serious crimes.
Brian Fee KC, for Mr Monaghan, set out how a Police Ombudsman report identified evidence of Special Branch having blocked attempts to bring ‘Informant 1’ to justice and concluded that it was “indicative of collusion”.
The barrister said his client is angry at failures by the RUC/PSNI to act on information after the kiling, and that Haggarty has been given a new identity and life.
“It is now known that at least one of the defendant’s informants was involved in the murder of Mr McParland,” counsel submitted.
“Informant 1 was responsible for murder and it is now a matter of public record that Gary Haggarty was the primary gunman who fired the bullet into Mr McParland’s neck and face, and tried to use all the bullets in the gun on him but the gun jammed after the fatal shot.”
The RUC/PSNI ‘Informant 1’ was involved in similar attacks prior to the shooting.
“The defendant nevertheless allowed him to remain at large despite the likelihood of him continuing to be involved in murder and criminal mayhem,” Mr Fee said.
“Indeed, it is not simply a case of the defendant turning a blind eye, but rather police officers protected him.
“Even when Informant 1 made admissions of his involvement in murder, the defendant carried out ‘sham’ investigations into him and ensured that he was released without charge.
“He was interviewed mainly by his Special Branch handlers, warned not to repeat admissions and he was told not to say anything.”
The barrister added: “He was protected by police despite knowledge that he was participating in wholly unauthorised crimes, including multiple murders.
“This meant he was at large to murder Mr McParland and was aware of his protected status.”
Seeking aggravated damages for his client, Mr Fee insisted the PSNI should not be permitted to avoid such a payout by blaming the paramilitaries for Mr McParland’s killing.
“It was the failings and actions of the defendant which allowed Informant 1 and other terrorists to carry out the murder,” he said.