Ex-UVF commander Gary Haggarty pleads guilty to five murders

Gary Haggarty also pleaded guilty to 23 counts of conspiracy to murder

Ex-UVF commander Gary Haggarty pleads guilty to five murders

General view of Belfast Crown Court, also known as Laganside Courts | Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

A former loyalist paramilitary commander has pleaded guilty to 200 offences, including five murders.

Gary Haggarty, the ex-chief of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in north Belfast, admitted the crimes as part of a deal to give evidence against others.

As well as five murders, the 45-year-old admitted five attempted murders - including against police officers.

He also pleaded guilty to 23 counts of conspiracy to murder, directing terrorism and membership of a proscribed organisation.

Haggarty, who worked as a police informant during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, was interviewed more than 1,000 times by detectives and 23,000 pages of transcripts were presented in evidence.

His offences from 1991 to 2007 included the murders of John Harbinson, Sean McParland, Gary Convie, Eamon Fox and Sean McDermott.

The charge sheet also included aiding and abetting murder, kidnap, possession of explosives, hijacking, false imprisonment, arson, intimidation and conspiracy to riot.

Eamon Fox's son Ciaran (left) and Gary Convie's father Joe outside Belfast Crown Court | Image: David Young/PA Wire/PA Images

Haggarty is believed to be living at a secret location outside Northern Ireland.

He is expected to receive a reduced sentence in exchange for his co-operation with the authorities.

He may even walk free after his sentence hearing in September, as he has already served three years in custody.

Following the hearing at Belfast Crown Court, Eamon Fox's son Ciaran said it was "hard sitting in a courtroom watching a guy admitting to murdering your father".

Describing Haggarty as "just a hitman", Mr Fox said: "His hands are deep in blood along with people he's going to expose and because of who he's going to expose I think it's not going to finish."

PSNI Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell said the guilty pleas marked a "milestone" for the victims and their families.