Stone 'planned to kill Sinn Fein chiefs'

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The Independent Online

The notorious loyalist Michael Stone planned to slit the throats of the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, and his deputy, Martin McGuinness, in the Northern Ireland Assembly chamber when he stormed Stormont in November 2006, a Belfast court heard yesterday.

Mr Stone, 53, plotted to kill them on the day Mr McGuinness was designated Deputy First Minister, it is claimed. However his plan ended in failure when he was detained by security staff at the entrance to Parliament Buildings.

He launched the murder bid because he considered the Sinn Fein leaders to be "republican war criminals" who did not deserve to be in government, the court was told.

Stone faced a total of 14 charges, including attempting to murder Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness, when he went on trial at Belfast Crown Court today.

He was also charged with possessing home-made explosives and an imitation gun with intent, carrying a garrotte, three knives and an axe and assaulting staff members who trapped him in the revolving doors at Stormont.

Stone has denied the charges, claiming his attack was "performance art".

But prosecuting council Charles Adair QC said that after being arrested by police, Stone said: "My intention was to walk into the debating chamber and look for where Adams, McGuinness and Sinn Fein were sitting. I would have lobbed several nail bombs to cause confusion.

"I planned to stab Adams and McGuinness and cut their throats."

Mr Adair said Stone said he would use "close-quarter tactics" to slit the throats of Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness.

The lawyer said Stone admitted to counting on the fact that any personal protection weapons the Assembly members had would not have been carried in the debating chambers.

Mr Adair said Stone explained to police why he had planned the assassinations. The court heard he told them: "I see Adams and McGuinness as republican war criminals. Adams and McGuinness don't deserve to be in a devolved Government. It would be a bastardisation of democracy."

After his detention and arrest, Stone was taken by police from Stormont to the nearby Ulster hospital for a check-up because he had been complaining of chest pains and difficulty in breathing.

It was during the journey to the hospital and while in the hospital that he told them why he had launched the attack, the court heard.

He said of the prospect of republicans being in Government: "I just can't handle it", said Mr Adair.

He said Stone, who suffers severe arthritis and walks with a stick, spent two hours working his way through the Stormont grounds to the entrance of Parliament Buildings.

He was first spotted by a security guard spray-painting on the front of the buildings the words 'Sinn Fein, IRA, war'.

When the guard challenged Stone, the court heard, he pulled a gun, which later turned out to be a replica, and pointed it directly into the security man's face, saying: "You had better f****** run or you're a dead man."

The security guard ran in a zig-zag fashion to the east end of the building where he raised the alarm.

While he was doing so, Stone tried to enter the main revolving door but was trapped by security guard Sue Porter who recognised him, Mr Adair said.

He had a bag with him which he dropped and used a lighter to light what appeared to be a fuse which started to sparkle, the court heard. He flung the bag into the entrance hall shouting that a bomb would go off.

Mr Adair said Stone was kneed in the groin and the imitation fire arm wrestled from him by Ms Porter and another security guard.

Stone shouted: "F****** evacuate. It will go off," the court heard.

Ms Porter responded: "You will go up with it."

Stone responded: "What the f***."

Stone told her that the bomb would go off in five minutes but in fact the device never went off and is believed to have malfunctioned, having got damp during the torrential rain that fell that day, the court heard.

Mr Adair said Stone had planned his attack for some time and had gone out into the countryside to test a bomb similar to the one he lit the fuse of - it had exploded in 21 seconds.

The barrister praised the security staff at Stormont saying: "This attack failed because of the bravery of the security staff."

Mr Adair said Stone insisted he had been acting alone, telling police: "I am a dissident loyalist freelance."

He claimed to have left the Ulster Defence Association on the day he was released from the Maze Prison under the Good Friday Agreement early release scheme.

Stone gained notoriety in 1988 when he launched a gun and grenade attack on the republican funeral of three IRA members shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar.

Three people died and several more were injured before Stone was arrested by police as he fled Milltown Cemetery in West Belfast by running onto the M1 motorway.

Following his arrest at Stormont he was returned to prison to serve out the balance of his life sentence for the murders.

After Mr Adair completed his opening statement, the case was adjourned for a week.

The court heard that evidence, including a DVD of events at Stormont, had just come to light which both prosecution and defence would be using in the case.

Arthur Harvey QC, who is defending Stone, said it would be used by him to back Stone's assertion that his actions at Stormont were performance art.