Three held in loyalist killings probe

Three men were arrested today by police probing a string of loyalist killings in north Belfast.

Three men were arrested today by police probing a string of loyalist killings in north Belfast.

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) re-examined at least 10 murders blamed on the UVF. Now at least 20 more cases have been taken on by the police service itself.

The suspects, aged 28, 32 and 62, were arrested in the greater Belfast area. They have been taken to the serious crime suite at Antrim police station for questioning.

A police spokesman said: “This is a large and complex investigation which will continue for a considerable time.”

Operation Ballast investigated a UVF gang based in the Mount Vernon estate in north Belfast.

The original probe was set up amid claims that the security forces colluded with UVF members over the killings.

Former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan, claimed paramilitary killers were protected from prosecution because they were police agents.

She examined the allegations after a complaint from Belfast man Raymond McCord, whose son, Raymond McCord Junior, was murdered by the UVF in 1997.

Inquiries by HET have led to 20 people either charged or reported to the prosecution service for a total of 23 offences, including murder and attempted murder. Two men were jailed last week.

The PSNI believes the serious crime branch is the most appropriate mechanism to continue this important piece of work.

It remains answerable and accountable to the Policing Board on the implementation of the Ombudsman’s recommendations on Operation Ballast.

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