28 May 2006

Loyalist 'Mr Big' the brains behind botched bank bid

Sunday Life

Ciaran McGuigan
28 May 2006

A LEADING Portadown loyalist was the 'Mr Big' behind a botched bank robbery that led to four of his cronies being jailed last week.

Former LVF commander Gary Fulton, who was a close associate of Billy Wright, is understood to have been the 'main organiser' referred to in court last week as four others were jailed.

The robbery at the Northern Bank in Tandragee in October 2002 went wrong when the getaway car, which the gang had bought a day earlier for just £130, broke down.

Judge Kevin Finnegan didn't name Fulton, but remarked that the main organiser was not in front of the courts.

Senior security sources last night confirmed that it had been Fulton, whose cousin Mark 'Swinger' Fulton committed suicide in jail, who had organised the robbery.

The loyalist godfather had been quizzed by police officers about the robbery and charged in connection with the raid.

He appeared in court a number of times, but the case against him collapsed, though security sources remain convinced he was the gang's ringleader.

Fulton also beat a major drugs rap several years earlier when a jury at Wood Green Crown Court cleared him of conspiracy to supply thousands of Ecstasy tablets.

He has previously been jailed for armed robbery.

At Belfast Crown Court last Monday, Portadown men David Brown (23), of Jervis Street and Stewart Haire (25), of Ormode Street were each jailed for eight years and ordered to spend another two on probation for carrying out the bank robbery.

They were arrested after abandoning their broken down getaway car near the Newry canal towpath.

A bag of cash, around £10,000, was recovered, along with balaclavas, gloves and a starter pistol.

Two other Portadown men, Mark Willis (34), of Tandragee Road and Wesley Allen (29), of Oakwood Place, were each jailed for four years for aiding and abetting the raid.

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