08 January 2006

From graphic designer to gun runner to MI5 agent ... the strange life and ugly death of Lindsay Robb

Sunday Herald

INVESTIGATION: By Neil Mackay
08 January 2006



HE was a gun-runner, a loyalist terrorist, a Nazi sympathiser, a Special Branch and MI5 agent, a suspected drug dealer and a man with shadowy connections to Scotland’s underworld. Lindsay Robb’s life, times and crimes increased the chances that he would one day meet a violent, ugly and early death.

On Hogmanay, Robb, originally from Northern Ireland, finally did meet that violent and early end when he was butchered in the street in the east end of Glasgow – stabbed to death in front of dozens of shoppers. The 38-year-old ended his life in a pool of blood. His last words were: “I’m dying, I’m dying”.

Despite the brutality of his life and death, Robb was also a loving father, a devoted son, a devout Christian and a man who denied every allegation of wrong-doing ever laid against him.

Robb came to public attention when he appeared as a Crown witness in Northern Ireland against prominent Irish Republican Colin Duffy, who was charged with the 1993 killing of an ex-soldier in Robb’s home town, Lurgan in County Armagh. In 2000, Robb finally admitted in an interview with the Sunday Herald that the evidence he gave had been concocted in a deal hatched between Ulster police’s Special Branch and the UVF to put the notorious Duffy behind bars. Robb said that RUC officers approached the UVF after the IRA killed former soldier John Lyness and asked them to provide a “clean” witness who would implicate Duffy in the murder.

At this point, Robb was working as a graphic designer. He was clean-cut, well-educated, intelligent, articulate and charming. Underneath this, however, he was a dangerous player in the UVF.

The UVF had tried to kill Colin Duffy on a number of occasions and he was also loathed by Special Branch. When police approached the loyalist terror gang and asked them to help come up with a fake witness to put Duffy behind bars, Robb was the first choice.

Following his testimony, Duffy was jailed, although his conviction was later quashed when Robb was sensationally convicted of gun-running by a Glasgow court in 1995 – at the time he was a key peace negotiator for the Progressive Unionist Party.

After the Duffy prosecution, Robb had been advised by police to go to Scotland “until the heat died down”. Later, in Perth prison, still looking every inch the respectable young man making his first steps on the path of a promising political career, he denied completely that he had been involved in gun- running. “Why would someone who was trying to bring about peace get involved in running guns?” he asked.

Robb hinted that he had been set up by the RUC and British intelligence. Whatever the truth, Robb was certainly a member of the UVF. The jail term, however, was to change his life forever. At the time he said presciently: “My conviction has ruined my life.”

Later, Robb was transferred from Scotland to serve out the rest of his sentence in Ulster prisons. Within months, he had turned from a clean-cut young man into someone who looked like a shaven-headed, muscle-bound thug. Robb had transformed into one of the “killer clones” – the young loyalist prisoners who adopted the hoodlum looks and attitudes of the big para military players on the inside.

Robb was the first loyalist prisoner released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 1999. A bright man, he was refused admittance to Stirling University to study politics because of his past.

His last days were spent in relative poverty eking out a living as a jobbing builder and gardener. Claims that Robb had a large amount of money with him at the time he was killed have been dismissed by the police as nonsense.

Stirling University was perhaps Robb’s last chance to free himself from a life of crime, danger and violence. He had a wife and young children by then and wanted to fulfil what he saw as his real potential. But once his chance of an education was scuppered he reverted to his old ways.

In 2002, he was among 26 Rangers fans charged with match violence. After prison, he was dogged by claims that he was linked to organised crime and drug dealing – allegations that he passionately denied. He also became increasingly paranoid, believing that he was constantly under state surveillance.

Certainly, he had much to be paranoid about, including his unwitting treachery not only to his own side, but also to the man he said was his mentor and whom he hero-worshipped: Billy Wright, the notorious killer and loyalist leader.

Intelligence sources have told the Sunday Herald that a plot was established in 1995 – when Robb was part of the Progressive Unionist Party’s peace talks team – to jail Wright.

Once Robb had agreed to give evidence against Colin Duffy for the killing of the ex-soldier in Lurgan he was “in the intelligence system” and the British security apparatus had its hooks into him. British intelligence encouraged him to become more involved in UVF activities, and to increase his credibility within loyalist paramilitary circles by using his new base in Scotland to assist the UVF.

An intelligence source told the Sunday Herald: “The more Lindsay’s ego grew the easier he was to manipulate. He was out of his depth and didn’t realise it. He never realised he was simply the means to catch a bigger fish – Billy Wright.”

British intelligence suggested to Robb that he boost his reputation with Wright by “getting some kit” – in other words, guns – for the UVF through his connections in Scotland. Thus was born the gun-running operation which would lead to Robb’s arrest and imprisonment.

But the UVF were getting suspicious about Robb, and Wright was tipped off by trusted lieutenants to keep well away from him. The plot failed to snare the loyalist godfather, although it ended with Robb being convicted for gun- running. Billy Wright was later murdered in prison by republicans. The killing has also been dogged by rumours of state collusion.

An intelligence source said: “Robb thought he would walk away from the charges but he became the victim of internal housekeeping. Once it was realised that Wright was suspicious, the major target of the operation had gone so something had to be salvaged. Robb was the fall guy – it’s as simple as that.’’

Robb’s final days were not marked by happiness. One close friend, a prominent Scottish neo-Nazi, said that Robb had asked to borrow money from him not long before his death and was worried about the ill-health of one of his children.

“He was a good friend and a comrade who supported racialist [sic] politics. I was supposed to be working with him on the day he died, but couldn’t due to family reasons.

“He was dropping a few friends off in Glasgow after work and was going to collect his wages when he was killed. I’ll remember him as a man who could articulate his politics intelligently, and I will miss him.”

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