30 April 2006

Stone ‘innocence’ leads to call for reopening of case

Sunday Times

**I missed this article from the 16th

Liam Clarke
16 April 2006

THE family of a Catholic murdered by loyalists in Tyrone in 1987 is demanding a police investigation be re-opened after the terrorist convicted of the killing admitted making a false confession.

Michael Stone, one of loyalism’s most notorious mass murderers, now says he didn’t kill Dermot Hackett, a bread delivery man. The retraction, made in a recent television confrontation between Stone and Hackett’s widow, has been backed up by the detective who investigated the murder.

Hackett was gunned down by a UDA gang as he drove his van between Omagh and Drumquin in May 1987. A year later Stone confessed to the killing while being questioned about another murder case.

He claimed to have leaned out of a car window and fired a sub-machine-gun at Hackett, who was hit 15 times.

Detective Inspector John Lyttle was among the first officers on the scene of the killing. “It was physically impossible to do what Stone said he did. Not just unlikely, physically impossible,” said Lyttle.

“The van was stopped at a corner, possibly by a fake checkpoint. One bullet went through the front windscreen and hit Hackett. He then fell over the passenger seat sideways. The bread van was so high you had to climb up to get into it.

“The door was closed and he was lying as if he was asleep but there was a line of sub- machine-gun bullet holes along his leg and back. There were no bullet holes in the cab of the lorry, so whoever finished him off must have climbed up, put the gun through the window and sprayed him.”

Lee Francis Deery, a local loyalist youth, was convicted of supplying the getaway car. Lyttle said the suspects for the killing were other young loyalists from Tyrone.

“I visited 13 houses, including the home of Eddie Sayers, the local UDA leader, where we recovered documents. I believe the killers stayed in caravans owned by Sayers after the killing,” he said.

Lyttle expressed his reservations to his superiors as soon as Stone confessed. “It was clear he did not know the details of the murder scene but I was refused permission to question him.”

Last month, during a BBC series that brought victims and perpetrators together, Stone admitted he had not been at the scene of the murder though he was in on the planning. “I did everything but pull the trigger.”

Sylvia Hackett plans to meet Lyttle in her quest for the truth.

“I don’t believe [Stone] shot my husband,” she said.

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