Lawyer was taped inciting others to murder taxi driver, court told

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The Independent Online

Details of bugged conversations between paramilitary suspects and their lawyer - who is standing trial for incitement to murder and using his legal position to pass on information to terrorists - have been revealed for the first time.

Transcripts of the conversations, recorded during a number of covert surveillance operations in Antrim Serious Crime Suite, allegedly show that Manmohan ‘Johnny’ Sandhu “abused his position (as a solicitor) and engaged in criminal behaviour”.

Crown barrister Mr Gordon Kerr QC told a Diplock Court in Belfast yesterday that in one of the recordings Sandhu is overheard inciting others to murder Newtownards taxi driver Jonathan Hillier as he recovered in hospital in August 2005 from a failed attempt on his life. The lawyer (44) from Colby Avenue in Londonderry also allegedly attempted to pervert the course of justice surrounding the investigation into his shooting.

Mr Kerr claimed that at one stage the solicitor is overheard discussing with a client that “the w*****s need to clip him again”, and that Sandhu admitted he had “already told them he's in the Ulster Hospital”.

The pair were also secretly recorded saying that Mr Hillier “has got to be taken out” to prevent him giving evidence, while Sandhu allegedly said: “How the f*** did we do this wrong?”

In another secret recording Sandhu is allegedly overheard coaching a suspect, Christopher Dinsmore, on how to explain away gloves with cartridge discharge residue on them seized from his house. Mr Dinsmore was arrested in connection with the murder of Jameson Lockhart on July 1, 2005. Mr Lockhart was shot dead as he sat in a lorry on the Lower Newtownards Road during a power struggle between the UVF and LVF.

According to transcripts read to the court, Sandhu initially suggested Mr Dinsmore join a rifle club to explain the residue, and then he suggested that he say they belonged to murdered UDA boss Jim Gray.

“They weren’t messing about there. It’s the first time they ever got residue ... You have lots of friends coming into your flat and one of those who plays golf is Jim Gray. So just say (the glove is) Jim’s. Dead men can’t talk,” Sandhu was allegedly recorded as saying.

He added: “Have you used them in kneecappings?” to which Mr Dinsmore is said to have replied: “We don’t do kneecappings anymore, we just give them flesh wounds.”

Dinsmore then allegedly said: “I’m worried a bit here”, to which Sandhu is claimed to have replied “I know, that’s why Gray is our answer ... Gray was in the house, he play’s golf, that’s the only person you know was there.”

In another secretly taped conversation following the murder of Jim Gray, Sandhu allegedly told a suspect — Gary Matthews, Gray’s former business partner — that he would kick him to warn him not to answer a question during police interview.

“Mr Matthews, if I kick you, don’t answer,” Sandhu is alleged to have said. Mr Matthews replied: “Make sure you kick me hard.”

Sandhu then allegedly said: “They have started to move the desk so I can’t kick my punters. One of my punters must have told them that is my strategy.”

The court was read another transcript during which Sandhu is alleged to discuss with a client how he stopped police from catching a suspect after he warned him to “get offside”.

“Why can they not get (him)? Because I told him to get offside. He rang me and said they’re at my mother’s. They do not know his real address. I says ‘you f***ing go underground until I see you’. There’s more chance of them getting Winnie The Pooh than that man.”

Sandhu denies a total of six charges including incitement to murder, perverting the course of justice and using his role as a solicitor to keep members of a terrorist organisation informed on the progress of police investigations.

The case continues.

* This article is from the Belfast Telegraph.