Friends of former Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan are hopeful that the remaining suspects for his murder will now finally face justice after the jailing on Friday of one of the members of the gang who killed him.
Neil Hyde, 32, from Lurgan, Armagh, was jailed for three years after signing a contract to become an “assisting offender”. He admitted to numerous offences, including witholding information in relation to a murder, and in January Belfast Crown Court heard that he has offered “the very greatest assistance in resolving the notorious killing” of the investigative journalist.
O’Hagan, 51, was shot dead in Lurgan in September, 2001 on his way home from an evening out with his wife. He was the only journalist killed by paramilitaries during the Northern Ireland Troubles.
O’Hagan had a history of exposing the gangster activities of Loyalist paramilitaries.
Since his killing The Sunday Word has repeatedly named the six-person Ulster Volunteer Force paramilitary team suspected of carrying out his murder.
Campaigners for justice in the O’Hagan case are said to be closely watching the trial of alleged UVF leader Mark Haddock and 12 other defendants. Judgment in the case was reserved last week and it is being viewed as a test-case for the “assisting offender” system.
A former colleague of O’Hagan’s told Press Gazette: “People here are watching closely the Mark Haddock supergrass trial. The old supergrass trials often failed because all the defence had to do was list the many crimes of the grass to undermine their evidence.
“With the new legislation allowing people to be specialist witnesses, or ‘assisting offenders’, it is hoped that these people can be convicted on the word of their former colleagues.
“If the Mark Haddock prosecution is successful, people are very hopeful that those responsible for the killing of Martin O’Hagan will have been named by Neil Hyde and can finally face trial.”