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01/08/2006

Inquest reveals details of Legge murder

A Belfast Inquest Court has today learned that a leading loyalist's murder was as brutal as those committed by the Shankill butchers 30 years ago.

George Legge (37), a former UFF leader, was found dead in a field near Carryduff in January 2001.

His throat had been cut and he had sustained multiple stab wounds.

It is believed that he was killed in the 'Bunch of Grapes' bar in east Belfast, which was owned by close associate Jim Gray, who was shot dead in Belfast last October.

Gray was one of five men later questioned about the murder, however was never charged.

The inquest today heard how the killers disposed of evidence of the murder by removing a carpet from Gray's pub, which police believe would have been covered in blood.

Mr Legge's blood was found on the street outside the property and fibres from a carpet discovered in his hair.

A short time later the bar was set alight with petrol what is believed to be an attempt to destroy evidence.

Mr Legge's body was discovered after being dumped on the Clontonacally Road in Carryduff.

At the time of his death, he was said to have been a senior member of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) who he had reportedly fallen out with just months before his death.

Speaking at today's inquest, Senior Coroner John Leckey, said: "I have been acting as Coroner long enough to remember the Shankill Butchers and looking at this brings back memories of how their victims were treated.

"It really is dreadful, dreadful injuries.

"It's a sobering thought that the person or persons responsible for this horrific murder are still walking the streets."

When Mr Leckey asked why the victim had not been shot, Detective Inspector Michael McErlane explained: "There was a reluctance by many organisations at that time to use firearms to try to demonstrate their move towards accepting a peace process where weapons were no longer needed.

"There is a deep-seated grudge or difference between paramilitaries within paramilitary organisations."

DI McErlane continued by saying that the case is one of many which is treated as an unsolved murder and will be reviewed in due course.

He added: "The case will remain open. The case is definitely not closed."

(EF)

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