Loyalist released on bail after being charged over two Troubles murders

Winston 'Winkie' Rea has been released on his own bail of £500

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Winston 'Winkie' Rea. Image: David Young / PA Wire/Press Association Images

A wheelchair-bound veteran loyalist charged with two Troubles murders has been released on bail.

Winston 'Winkie' Rea is accused of murdering John Benedict Devine in 1989 and John Joseph Gerard O'Hara in Belfast in 1991.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard the 65-year-old from Springwell Crescent in Groomsport, faces 12 charges for offences allegedly carried out between 1971 and 1991.

The pensioner pressed his ear against toughened glass and then nodded when asked if he understood he has been charged with membership of the proscribed Red Hand Commando.

The high-profile loyalist has been released on his own bail of £500, with the case adjourned until the 1st of August.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall has excused Rea from his next court appearance because of his failing health.

A fresh investigation into the two deaths was prompted after the PSNI obtained information from Boston College in the US.

Former paramilitaries, both republican and loyalist, were interviewed about their roles in the 40 years of violence on the understanding their accounts would not be made public until after their deaths.

However subsequent court rulings in the US rendered that useless after the PSNI was awarded custody of the tapes for investigative purposes.