30 July 2005

Stone's sick gun gimmick

Belfast Telegraph

30 July 2005

MILLTOWN murderer Michael Stone was at the centre of a gun-toting controversy today after posing for a series of chilling photographs.

These exclusive pictures show the loyalist killer-turned artist standing in a back yard holding a replica armalite.

In another photograph he is pictured with a SA 80 rifle.

One of the photographs shows him aiming the armalite as if he is about to fire.

In a bizarre publicity stunt, Stone sent the photographs, taken in 2004, to the Belfast Telegraph to "highlight the plight of loyalist prisoners being pressurised to turn informer".

He also claimed the pictures were part of an arts project entitled "Presumed Guilty" and said he had been willing to be arrested and interrogated by the PSNI to draw attention to the alleged attempts to recruit loyalist informers.

Stone, who claims to have turned his back on paramilitary activity, was convicted of six murders, including the three at Milltown Cemetery on March 16, 1988.

But in July 2000 he was released on licence, 12 years into his 800-year sentence.

The disturbing new photographs - the latest twist in the Stone saga - have prompted calls from politicians and angry relatives of his victims to review his licence.

Mark Thompson, spokesman for Relatives for Justice, branded the photographs "distasteful and upsetting" and accused Stone of "brazenness".

"Stone is drawn to publicity like a moth to the lightbulb but each time something like this happens, it has terrible consequences on the relatives of the people he killed and those he tried to kill," he said. "These pictures are distasteful and upsetting and will be very traumatic for the families of those affected by his deeds.

"We are engaged in legal proceedings at the moment to stop him from making profits from his book None Shall Divide Us. He's never shown any remorse for what he did, he's just tried to make money from his actions.

"While the photos of him posing like this are not surprising, they are very upsetting."

Alex Attwood, the SDLP's Policing and Justice spokesman, described the pictures as "shocking".

"If these pictures are genuine, and I must stress the word if, then there needs to be an investigation and review of his licence," he said.

"Anyone out on licence posing with a firearm, either real or imitation, has serious questions to answer. Any individual out on licence must be seen to be fully complying with the law and to be on their best behaviour.

"These pictures, if genuine, are shocking and should be passed onto the police and prison authorities."

Defending his actions Stone said he regretted upsetting the relatives of victims but that his loyalties lay with the former loyalist prisoners.

He admitted the pictures were shocking but said he felt their publication was necessary to make a point.

"If I'd sent in pictures of me painting what attention would that have got?" he said. "I wanted to highlight the fact that former loyalist prisoners are being put under pressure to become informers and are being told their licences will be revoked if they don't.

"I would have been willing to be lifted and brought to Antrim to be interrogated if it meant highlighting what's going on."

Stone said that following the release of Shankill bomber Sean Kelly, he did not believe he would be arrested.

Stone and 'The Piano Man' should open a PR Consultancy business together - they both obviously crave the limelight !

Sharon .
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