Northern Ireland

Thomas Pearson guilty over car used in murder of John Boreland

John Boreland Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption John Boreland was a prominent member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA)

A man whose car was used in the murder of the prominent loyalist John Boreland has been found guilty of making property available to terrorists.

Mr Boreland, who was a member of the loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), was shot dead in north Belfast in August 2016.

Thomas Boyd Pearson, from Rathglynn in Antrim, had denied the charge during a non-jury trial at Belfast Crown Court.

But the judge said Pearson knew at the time it was the UDA asking for his car.

'A wee message'

Mr Boreland was hit three times with a shotgun at Sunningdale Gardens, off the Ballysillan Road, on 7 August, 2016 in an attack that the prosecution described as "an execution".

Image caption John Boreland was found slumped beside his car after the shooting in Sunningdale Gardens

The trial heard that witnesses saw Pearson's car - a silver Renault Megane - leaving the murder scene after a number of shots rang out.

Pearson, a 63-year-old painter and decorator, admitted that he burned the Megane after the shooting, and for that act he pleaded guilty to a charge of perverting the course of justice.

However, he had contested the charge of making his vehicle available to terrorists.

In his ruling, the judge reminded the court that during police interviews, Pearson said an individual came to his door one night and said: "We need your car to do a wee message.''

Pearson later told officers that in fact it was a car load of people who arrived at his door, describing them as "sinister''.

"In a series of answers, he indicated that these individual were members of a group," the judge said.

He added that when the defendant was asked by police if they belonged to a terrorist or proscribed organisation, Pearson replied: "Aye, I'd say they do.''

Image copyright Photo released by PSNI
Image caption Mr Boreland had survived a previous attempt on his life

"At this stage of the interview,'' said the judge, "he was confirming his belief that they were members of a group, which is either a terrorist group or a proscribed group and regarded members of that group he came into contact with as 'sinister'."

The judge said Pearson had "confirmed his belief" that the request to use his car had come from "somebody at the very top" of the group.

The accused had denied during police interview that the request for his car had come from north Belfast UDA.

However, the judge said: "I am satisfied by the replies given by the defendant to the various questions that at the time he made the vehicle available, he knew that it was going to be used for the benefit of a proscribed organisation... his replies indicate his knowledge that it was the Ulster Defence Association.

He added: "I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty."

Two other men have already pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice by burning the car after the murder.

The judge released Pearson on continuing bail and said he would sentence all three men next month.

Related Topics