Page last updated at 12:45 GMT, Friday, 12 June 2009 13:45 UK

Loyalist murderer's appeal fails

William 'Jim' Fulton
Fulton was a leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force

A loyalist secretly recorded talking about the killing of a grandmother has lost an appeal against his conviction for the murder.

Judges said LVF leader Jim Fulton was a "ruthless and vicious individual" who talked about a genocide of Catholics.

Guilty verdicts for a catalogue of crimes for which he is serving a minimum 25-year prison sentence were upheld.

However, four of Fulton's terrorist convictions were quashed.

Fulton, formerly of Queen's Walk, Portadown, shook his head in the dock of Belfast High Court as judgment was delivered.

He was jailed in January 2007 after being found guilty of 48 terrorist offences, including the murder of Elizabeth O'Neill, seven attempted murders and directing terrorism.

Mrs O'Neill died in a pipe bomb attack on her home in Portadown. The device exploded after she had picked it up.

An undercover police operation and covert surveillance was used to secure recorded confessions from Fulton when he moved to Cornwall in 2000 and began working for what he believed to be a crime gang.

Elizabeth O'Neill
Elizabeth O'Neill died in an explosion at her home in 1999.

His lawyers challenged whether the taped admissions should have been allowed in evidence against him.

But the judges held that police tricking a defendant into incriminating himself does not render that material inadmissible.

They rejected defence claims that Fulton was subservient to others in the crime gang who paid his wages and supplied drink and drugs.

Fulton's lawyers had also questioned whether the the bugging operation was legitimate as it had initially been sanctioned as part of the investigation into the murder of Lurgan solicitor Rosemary Nelson and not directed at the crimes for which Fulton was convicted.

Although Fulton was declared not to be a suspect in the Nelson inquiry, Lord Justice Girvan found nothing to suggest he could not provide leads or assistance to detectives hunting the lawyer's killers.

A ruthless and vicious individual devoid of human sympathy or empathy and steeped in deeply sectarian attitudes
Lord Justice Girvan describes Jim Fulton

"Fulton... was suspected to be a leading figure in unlawful loyalist paramilitary activity in Mid Ulster where the murder had occurred," the judge said.

"The suggestion that the surveillance operation should be viewed as an illegitimate operation brought about by subterfuge is unsustainable."

The judge continued: "The clear picture that emerges from the entirety of the recorded conversations, including those recorded by probes, is of a ruthless and vicious individual devoid of human sympathy or empathy and steeped in deeply sectarian attitudes and bitterness who was prepared even to give expression to and countenance the desirability of genocide."

Lord Justice Girvan referred to one recording where Fulton declared that Catholics had to be "wiped out".

According to the probe evidence he stated: "That's our belief, if it doesn't work out we're finished. We have to kill every Catholic and believe in it."

Lord Justice Girvan, sitting with Mr Justices Gillen and McLaughlin, did overturn convictions connected to three attempted murders and an attempted grievous bodily harm with intent.

The offences were linked to bombs being thrown into two other homes in June 1999, but the judge said the evidence was not sufficient to establish the specific intent to kill.

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