10 June 2005

Belfast Telegraph

Millionaire loyalist shot 11 times
Life term for killing terrorist

By Ashleigh Wallace
10 June 2005

Justice in Northern Ireland should be dispensed in a court of law and not down the barrel of a gun.

That's according to Superintendent Roy McComb, the senior investigating officer involved in the prosecution of Portadown man Robert Young - who was yesterday handed a life sentence after being found guilty of murdering Jim 'Jonty' Johnston.

Young (41), from Ulsterville Park, appeared in the dock of Belfast Crown Court and was yesterday told by Mr Justice Higgins: "You have been found guilty of the murder of James Herbert Johnston.

"The only penalty in this jurisdiction for murder is of imprisonment for life, to which I sentence you."

The court is expected to reconvene at a later date to decide what tariff Young must serve. It is understood he plans to appeal against his sentence, which was passed following a six week Diplock trial.

During yesterday's hearing, the court heard that blood which matched Young's was found on barbed wire fencing close to the murder scene along the escape route taken by the gunmen.

When he was arrested two weeks after the murder in his parents home, Young denied the murder to police.

He told them that at the time of the killing, he had been at his sister Lorraine's house in Holywood.

When Young was examined by a doctor, he was found to have injuries which the judge said were "consistent with scrambling through rough terrain and through thick and sharp vegetation".

Johnston, a member of the Red Hand Commando, was hit 11 times when two gunmen opened fire at his plush home on the Ballyrobert Road in Crawfordsburn on May 8, 2003.

Also appearing in court yesterday was Young's sister Lorraine (35) - the former sister-in-law of Stephen Warnock who was shot dead in Newtownards in September 2002.

The mother of three, from Church Hill, claimed her brother was with her the night Johnston was killed. However, after finding her brother guilty of the murder, Mr Justice Higgins said if Young was guilty of murder, she was guilty of perverting the course of justice.

Holywood woman Susan Ferguson (35), from Westlink, was also found guilty of possessing a magazine for a Taurus pistol which was found on top of her fridge and which was connected to the murder.

Speaking outside the courthouse, Supt Roy McComb said: "Whatever people thought of Jim Johnston and whatever crimes he was suspected of, no-body has the right to kill him."

He added that justice should be dispensed in court and not "from the barrel of a gun".

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