Inquiry finds no 'state collusion' in Wright killing

The official inquiry into the murder of Loyalist prisoner Billy Wright in Maze Prison found there was no "state collusion'' in his killing, Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson has told the UK's House of Commons today.

The official inquiry into the murder of Loyalist prisoner Billy Wright in Maze Prison found there was no "state collusion'' in his killing, Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson has told the UK's House of Commons today.

Mr Paterson said that there were "serious failings" by the prison authorities which did "facilitate" Wright's death but that they were result of "negligence" and were not intentional.

The UK government investigation, which cost £30m (€367m), examined the 1997 when Wright, 37, was ambushed by armed republican prisoners who managed to slip through security and open fire.

The murder, just two days after Christmas 1997, threatened to disrupt the tense all-party political negotiations in the months before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement the following year.

Wright, from Portadown, Co Armagh, leader of loyalist splinter group the Mid-Ulster-based Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), and allegedly linked to up to 20 murders of mostly innocent Catholics, was sitting in the back of a prison van waiting to be taken to meet his visiting girlfriend when he was shot seven times.

Three republican prisoners belonging to the INLA were involved.

Two of the three, Christopher “Crip” McWilliams and John Kennaway, had been transferred into the same H-Block as Wright the previous May, just weeks after Wright was moved from Maghaberry Prison, also near Lisburn, Co Antrim, to serve out an eight-year sentence.

The two men and a third man, John Glennon, armed with a semi-automatic pistol and a double-barrelled .22 Derringer, moved in to kill him after hearing his name announced over the prison Tannoy system.

They surrendered themselves to prison staff and were later sentenced to life imprisonment but released early under the terms of the 1998 peace deal.

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