Northern Ireland

Winston Rea Boston College tapes sought over murder, attempted murder probe

Winston Rea Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Winston Rea is among dozens of loyalists and republicans who provided testimonies to Boston College's Belfast Project.

Police want interviews a loyalist gave to a university project as part of investigations into murder, robbery and attempted murder, a court has heard.

Winston Rea was one of dozens of former paramilitaries who provided testimonies to Boston College's Belfast Project.

A judge was told the police need tapes of Mr Rea's interviews in order to meet a legal duty to probe serious crimes spanning three decades.

Mr Rea has issued proceedings to try to stop the PSNI obtaining the material.

His lawyers argue that a handover would be an unlawful intrusion on his privacy, based on no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part.

Two weeks ago he secured a temporary injunction as police were set to board a plane for America to get the tapes.

Interviews were given on the understanding that tapes would not be made public until after the deaths of the interviewees.

However, in 2013 detectives investigating the 1972 abduction and murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville secured transcripts of former IRA woman Dolours Price's account.

That material was handed over following court battles on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mr Rea, a former loyalist prisoner, is now seeking to judicially review the Public Prosecution Service's (PPS) attempts to obtain his interviews.

He claims that a subpoena for the material is unlawful, unspecific and amounts to nothing more than a fishing exercise.

During proceedings it was stated that Mr Rea had not been accused of committing any of the offences being probed.

Alleged murder conspiracy

But a barrister for the PPS said that following the previous success in securing Boston tapes any claim to confidentiality on the loyalist's part "wasn't worth the paper it was written on".

He told the court the international request contained a clear suggestion that Mr Rea was involved in an alleged murder conspiracy in 1989.

No further details of that incident were disclosed.

Referring to the overarching investigation, he said: "The PSNI have identified Mr Rea as a suspect."

A barrister representing the chief constable, said there was "an air of unreality" about the legal action.

He contended that if crimes had been committed, police have a statutory obligation to investigate.

"There are obvious reasonable grounds for suspecting offences have been committed," he said.

"Whether or not the applicant is the individual who has committed those, it's quite clear the police have active lines of inquiry in respect of murder, attempted murder and robbery."

He said the PSNI is seeking to advance inquiries into serious crime spanning three decades up to the late 1990s.

"Regardless of who committed these offences there are victims, there are those bereaved, and some of them have written to the court expressing an interest in the issue," he added.

A judge will decide on Monday whether to grant leave for Rea to seek a judicial review.

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