Loyalist linked to many sectarian killings was quizzed over death

Loyalist Mark 'Swinger' Fulton - found dead in his prison cell in 2002 - has been linked to some of the most horrific sectarian murders in Northern Ireland.

He took over as leader of loyalist paramilitary group the LVF after the INLA killing of LVF founder Billy Wright in the Maze prison in December 1997.

The pair were behind numerous sectarian murders in the Mid-Ulster area.

Despite being arrested by the RUC on a number of occasions, they nevertheless managed to continue their campaign. This did not end when the pair were eventually placed behind bars.

The LVF was formed after the unsanctioned murder by renegade UVF members of Catholic taxi driver Michael McGoldrick, who was lured to his death on the evening of July 8 1996.

It was the height of the Drumcree march standoff but Mr McGoldrick, who had just graduated from Queen's University, Belfast, braved any misgivings he had to earn extra cash as his wife Sadie was expecting their second child.

The 31-year-old was last seen picking up a fare shortly after midnight outside a leisure centre in Lurgan.

Hours later a man out hunting discovered Mr McGoldrick's body slumped over the wheel of his cab on a remote country lane near Aghalee.

It later emerged that Mr McGoldrick was murdered as a "birthday present" for Billy Wright who, with Fulton, embarked on a murderous campaign against the Catholic community with the newly formed LVF.

Fulton (42), a father-of-two, has been implicated in more than a dozen murders attributed to both the UVF and LVF. Allegations persist that senior figures in both loyalist groups operating in mid-Ulster were agents of both Special Branch and MI5 and colluded in murder with the security forces.

The Irish News understands that detectives arrested and quizzed Fulton along with several other loyalists over the murder of Bellaghy GAA club chairman Sean Brown but all were released without charge.

The 61-year-old was attacked and abducted by an LVF gang on the evening of May 12 1997 as he locked up Wolfe Tone GAA club in Bellaghy, Co Derry, which had been targeted by loyalists on previous occasions.

Less than an hour later the body of the father-of-six was found lying beside his burnt-out car on the Moneynick Road in Randalstown, Co Antrim. He had been shot six times.

It has been reported that his killers risked detection by taking the 10-mile journey to the Co Antrim town in order to mark it as retaliation for the INLA murder of RUC constable Darren Bradshaw, whose funeral took place in Antrim later that day.

The LVF gang would have taken one of two routes to take their victim, who had been knocked unconscious and bungled into the boot of the car, to Randalstown.

Given the time between the kidnapping and discovery of Mr Brown's body, it is widely believed they drove through Toomebridge and would have had to pass the large RUC station in the town.

Randalstown can also be accessed via Portglenone but that route is considerably longer and bearings can prove difficult if the area is unfamiliar.

Mr Brown, who worked at the Institute of Mechanical Engineering in Ballymena Training Centre, was a well respected figure in GAA circles.

He was also highly thought of among his Protestant neighbours in his home village of Bellaghy.

A moving tribute penned by a 12-year-old Protestant girl was read out at his funeral.

The poem read:

When I came home from school that day, I saw that my mum and dad had been crying. 
And when they told me Sean had been killed, I wanted to believe they were only lying. 
I ran to my room and cried for I had known Sean for years. 
And the thought of him being murdered to my eyes brought more tears. 
It really does upset me to know that he's left this land. 
For each morning he proved he cared for me with a toot of the horn and a wave of his hand. 
There would never have been a time when I walked by Sean without him saying: 'Hello Fiona, how was school today?' 
Oh, why did he have to leave this world in such a tragic way?...

Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, who is also from Bellaghy, detailed his own revulsion at Mr Brown's killing in a tribute he sent to the Irish News from Greece dated May 14 1997.

"Sean Brown's murder was shocking and sinister. I have known two generations of the Brown family.

"They are people of great probity, much respected in the Bellaghy district, so my heart goes out to them at this moment," he wrote at the time.

"I heard the news in Olympia, just after I had visited the stadium where the original Olympic games were held, and given Sean Brown's role as chairman of the Gaelic Athletic Club in Bellaghy, I could not help thinking of his death as a crime against the ancient Olympic spirit.

"The Greeks recognised that there was something sacrosanct about the athletic ideal and regarded any violence during the period of the games as sacrilegious.

"Athletics and drama, two of the great civilising activities of Greece, were two of the activities which Sean Brown promoted, in his capacity as a lifelong member of the local Wolfe Tone's Club.

"He was a man of integrity and good will, qualities which were manifest when he presided at an event organised in January last year to celebrate the award of the Nobel prize to this particular Bellaghy man.

"Many things were precious about that evening including Sean's presentation to me of a painting of Lough Beg and the country around it, where we both grew up.

"But even more important was the fact that the celebration was attended by people from both sides of the Bellaghy community, Protestant and Catholic.

"He represented something better than we have grown used to; something not quite covered by the word 'reconciliation' because that word has become a policy word - official and public.

"This was more like a purification, a release from what the Greeks called the miasma, the stain of spilled blood. It is a terrible irony that the man who organised such an event should die at the hands of a sectarian killer."

As well as being linked to Mr Brown's murder, Fulton was also suspected of involvement in several others and was arrested, but released without charge.

They include the double murder of brothers Gerard and Rory Cairns on October 29, 1993 - shot dead by the UVF in their Bleary home in Co Armagh during a party for their 11-year-old sister Roisin.

The Cairns' family recently raised concerns over the RUC's handling of the investigation with Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan.

Fulton was questioned over the murder of Terence McConville (43), who was gunned down by the UVF at his Portadown home on march 28 1992.

The loyalist was also quizzed over the double killing of Dessie Rogers and Fergus Magee, shot dead in 1991 as they left work at a forklift factory near Lurgan. Protestant colleague John Lavery was also killed as he fled the gunmen.

Fulton was also implicated, along with Billy Wright, in the murder of Catholic teenager Denis Carville, who was shot by the UVF in 1990 as he sat with his girlfriend in a car at Oxford Island nature reserve near Lurgan.

Fulton was also suspected of involvement in the killing of Catholic Patrick Boyle. The father-of-five was gunned down by a masked UVF gang at his Annaghmore home on June 3 1990. The killers cut the telephone lines before opening fire, also injuring two of the victim's sons.

Fulton is also believed to have coordinated the attack on Catholic solicitor Rosemary Nelson, who was killed in a car bombing outside her Lurgan home on March 15, 1999.

Although he was in prison on the day of the murder he was granted parole days before and is also believed to have contacted his accomplices while in Maghaberry prison.

Months before he took his own life in his prison cell, Fulton denied any involvement in the LVF murder of Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan, who was shot dead in September 2001 as he walked home with his wife after a night out at a nearby pub in Lurgan.