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Murder plot witness 'was in Ulster unit': Former soldier was offered pounds 10,000 'hit contract', jury told

A FORMER member of a highly secret British army unit in Northern Ireland, called the Military Reaction Force, yesterday (Fri) admitted that he has been questioned about the killing of a civilian who was shot in the back in Belfast.

Tony Cox, the key prosecution witness in the trial of a man accused of plotting to have his wife murdered, agreed that he had been interviewed this year as part of an investigation ordered by the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland into the death of Patrick McVeigh, 44.

He gave his evidence from behind a screen at Bristol Crown Court because of fears Judge Peter Fallon told the jury, that his evidence might 'give rise to a threat to his personal safety', Judge Peter Fallon told the jury. The press and public were excluded as Mr Cox was brought into court through the judge's entrance.

He was giving evidence at the trial of It is alleged that at the trial that Stanley Adams, the man who became well known when he exposed illegal price-fixing by the international drugs company Hoffman-La Roche. It is alleged that Mr Adams tried to hire Mr Cox to murder his wife, Deborah, so that he could claim pounds 500,000 life insurance.

Mr Adams, 66, unemployed, of Chilthorne Domer, near Yeovil, Somerset, pleads not guilty to denies soliciting Mr Cox to murder Mrs Adams, aged 43. It is alleged that he offered the former soldier pounds 10,000 to shoot his wife while they were on holiday on a Greek island last year.

Yesterday, Mr Cox was asked by Kenneth Macdonald, defending, for the defence, whether he had ever killed anyone. He replied: 'I don't know. I know that it may seem strange to you, but in Northern Ireland it is hard to tell.'

When Mr Cox admitted that he had been interviewed in connection with the death of Mr McVeigh in 1972, Mr Mcdoald Macdonald said: 'The inquiry has been opened into allegations that members of the Military Reaction force over a period of time were driving around Belfast in unmarked cars shooting people out of the windows.'

Mr Macdonald said to him 'In May 1972 you were part of a two-car patrol each with four soldiers in which shooting incidents took place.' Mr Cox replied 'That is incorrect.'

Earlier, Mr Cox said that he replied to a magazine advertisement requesting curricula vitae from 'experienced mercenaries interested in carrying out a confidential mission'.

Mr Adams telephoned him and told him that he was an intermediary for people who wanted a woman relative with terminal cancer murdered.

Mr Cox told the court: 'As soon as it was mentioned I went cold. It is not everyday somebody asks me to murder somebody.'

He said that he decided to accept the offer to get evidence about the plot to give to the police.

After the original scheme to murder the unnamed victim in Italy had been cancelled because Mr Adams was involved in a road accident, the two men agreed that the shooting should take place on the Greek island of Kos. The defendant Mr Adams was arrested in Bristol last April.

For four months prior to the arrest, Mr Cox had been co-operating with the police, who monitored letters and phone calls between the two men. He said that he told detectives about the plot because he disapproved of it.

He admitted that he had got into trouble with the police because at the end of 1992 he made a false statement claiming that he had been robbed of 450. But he denied that he told them about the murder plot to avoid prosecution. for that.

Mr Cox also denied suggestions from Mr Macdonald that he had sent 'aggressive, threatening and demanding' letters to Mr Adams. He and said that when he had falsely told the defendant Mr Adams that he had spent 700 on a gun, this had not been a demand for money.

The case continues.