Note: First published as Unsung Hero in Paperback – 4 July 2008
Whats its all about ?
‘”I am a British soldier,” I told my reflection. “I am a British soldier and I’m saving lives. I’m saving lives. I’m a British soldier and I’m saving lives…”‘
Kevin Fulton was one of the British Army’s most successful intelligence agents. Having been recruited to infiltrate the Provisional IRA at the height of The Troubles, he rose its ranks to an unprecedented level. Living and working undercover, he had no option other than to take part in heinous criminal activities, including the production of bombs which he knew would later kill. So highly was he valued by IRA leaders that he was promoted to serve in its infamous internal police – ironically, his job was now to root out and kill informers.
Until one day in 1994, when it all went wrong. . . Fleeing Northern Ireland, Kevin was abandoned by the security services he had served so courageously and left to live as a fugitive. The life of a double agent requires constant vigilance, for danger is always just a heartbeat away. For a double agent within the highest ranks of the IRA, that danger was doubled. In this remarkable account, Kevin Fulton – former intelligence agent, ex-member of the IRA – tells a truth that is as uncomfortable as it is gripping.
I found this an interesting read – up to a point and I agree with Glyns review below, there was too much left out and unsaid and I got got the impression “Kevin ” was being very selective with the truth , including those events he covers in the book. As Martin Ingram states in the opening lines: ” The world of a double agent is a danger one, and a complicated one” You ain’t wrong fella and this book has some great accounts of that world that make it well worth a read.
Neil ‘Sam’ Samworth spent eleven years working as a prison officer in HMP Manchester, aka Strangeways. A tough Yorkshireman with a soft heart, Sam had to deal with it all – gangsters and gangbangers, terrorists and psychopaths, addicts and the mentally ill. Men who should not be locked up and men who should never be let out.
Strangeways is a shocking and at times darkly funny account of life in a high security prison. Sam tackles cell fires and self-harmers, and goes head to head with some of the most dangerous men in the country. He averts a Christmas Day riot after turkey is taken off the menu and replaced by fish curry, and stands up to officers who abuse their position. He describes being attacked by prisoners, and reveals the problems caused by radicalization and the drugs flooding our prisons.
As staffing cuts saw Britain’s prison system descend into crisis, the stress of the job – the suicides, the inhumanity of the system, and one assault too many – left Sam suffering from PTSD. This raw, searingly honest memoir is a testament to the men and women of the prison service and the incredibly difficult job we ask them to do.
‘Authentic, tough, horrifying in some places, hilarious in others . . . the author’s honesty and decency shine through’ Jonathan Aitken
I thought this was an awesome book and it had me gripped from the first til last page. Neil’s journey through the prison services was fascinating and he showed compassion and empathy towards those that hunt most of our nightmares and we get to read first hand about many of the weird and wonderful folk he meets along the way , staff and prisoners alike I hasten to add. His time there took a heavy toll on his mental health and his honesty about this struck a cord with me and I reached out to him to say hello and wish him all the best for the future.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
He’s on Twitter and is a top guy and well worth a follow.
Jonathan Aitken’s Review
Jonathan Aitken’s Review
Neil Samworth’s story is authentic, tough, horrifying in some places and hilarious in others. It captivates the reader because the author’s honesty and decency shine through as he tells it like it is on the daily roller coaster ride of prison life in Strangeways. An enthralling, exciting but disturbing book. (Jonathan Aitken)
The Stone Roses – I Wanna Be Adored (Official Video)
Inside HMP Strangeways Riots UK Prison Documentary (The Riots) HD 2018
Italy’s most notorious export is the Mafia. As Sicilian immigrants arrived on Ellis Island, they brought their bad seeds with them, gangsters who would stop at nothing in pursuit of money. Soon they were rewriting the history of America in blood.
The deeds of ruthless hoods and criminal masterminds such as Al Capone, Tot� Riina, and John Gotti have since become legend. The Mafia gives you the inside track on the personalities, the brutal exploits, and the fascinating culture of the world’s most powerful criminal organization
I’m creating a new page for my website/blog , Books about the Troubles ( see: 60 Films about the Troubles ) which will be a comprehensive list of the “best” /most popular books covering all sides of the Northern Ireland conflict.
The list is very long and I dont have the time or to be completely honest the patience to read them all and then write countless reviews. Therefore as many of my Twitter friends/followers are interested/lived through the Troubles I was hoping some of you guys would be interested in writing reviews for any book of your choice and I will give you full credit when I publish the blog post/add the new page.
If your interested DM me or leave a comment at the bottom of this page and I’ll be in touch.
Saladin remains one of the most iconic figures of his age. As the man who united the Arabs and saved Islam from Christian crusaders in the 12th century, he is the Islamic world’s preeminent hero. Ruthless in defence of his faith, brilliant in leadership, he also possessed qualities that won admiration from his Christian foes. He knew the limits of violence, showing such tolerance and generosity that many Europeans, appalled at the brutality of their own people, saw him as the exemplar of their own knightly ideals.
My thoughts ?
A fascinating and engaging easy to follow account of the life and times of one of the greatest and most respected Muslim leaders ever to have lived in my humble opinion. At a time when religious wars dominated the political landscape and European Christians considered it a religious duty to wage holy war , Saladin’s story unfolds and what a story it is. With a cast of characters as diverse as Raynald of Châtillon , ( evil bastard ) , Richard the Lion Heart ( treacherous ) and the mysterious and much feared assassins this is a page turner and I read it within two days.
Well worth a read for those interested in this tumultuous period of history and the legacy of God’s ” Holy Warriors. “
But Saladin is far more than a historical hero. Builder, literary patron and theologian, he is a man for all times, and a symbol of hope for an Arab world once again divided. Centuries after his death, in cities from Damascus to Cairo and beyond, to the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf, Saladin continues to be an immensely potent symbol of religious and military resistance to the West. He is central to Arab memories, sensibilities and the ideal of a unified Islamic state.
In this authoritative biography, historian John Man brings Saladin and his world to life in vivid detail. Charting his rise to power, his struggle to unify the warring factions of his faith, and his battles to retake Jerusalem and expel Christian influence from Arab lands, Saladin explores the life and the enduring legacy of this champion of Islam, and examines his significance for the world today.
Raynald of Châtillon, also known as Reynald or Reginald of Châtillon (French: Renaud de Châtillon; c. 1125 – 4 July 1187), was Prince of Antioch from 1153 to 1160 or 1161, and Lord of Oultrejordain from 1175 until his death. He was born as his father’s second son into a French noble family. After losing a part of his patrimony, he joined the Second Crusade in 1147. He settled in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and served in the royal army as a mercenary.
Raynald married Constance, the reigning Princess of Antioch, in 1153, in spite of her subjects’ opposition. He was always in need of funds. He captured and tortured Aimery of Limoges, Latin Patriarch of Antioch, because Aimery had refused to pay a subsidy to him. Raynald launched a plundering raid in Cyprus in 1155, causing great destruction. Four years later, the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel I Komnenos, came to Antioch at the head of a large army, forcing Raynald to beg for his mercy. Raynald made a raid in the valley of the river Euphrates at Marash to seize booty from the local peasants in 1160 or 1161, but he was captured by the governor of Aleppo.
Raynald was held in prison until 1176. After his release for a large ransom, he did not return to Antioch, because his wife had meanwhile died. He married Stephanie of Milly, the wealthy heiress of Oultrejordain. Since Baldwin IV of Jerusalem also granted Hebron to him, Raynald was one of the wealthiest barons of the realm. He controlled the caravan routes between Egypt and Syria. Baldwin, who suffered from leprosy, made him regent in 1177.
Raynald led the crusader army that defeated Saladin at the Battle of Montgisard. He was the only Christian leader to pursue an offensive policy against Saladin, making plundering raids against the caravans travelling near his domains. He built a fleet of five ships which plundered the coast of the Red Sea, threatening the route of the Muslim pilgrims towards Mecca in early 1183. Saladin pledged that he would never forgive Raynald.
Raynald was a firm supporter of Baldwin IV’s sister, Sybilla, and her husband, Guy of Lusignan, during conflicts regarding the succession of the king. Sibylla and Guy were able to seize the throne in 1186 due to Raynald’s co-operation with her uncle, Joscelin III of Courtenay. Raynald attacked a caravan travelling from Egypt to Syria in late 1186 or early 1187, claiming that the truce between Saladin and the Kingdom of Jerusalem did not bind him. After Raynald refused to pay a compensation, Saladin invaded the kingdom and annihilated the crusader army in the Battle of Hattin. Raynald was captured in the battlefield. Saladin personally beheaded him after he refused to convert to Islam. Most historians have regarded Raynald as an irresponsible adventurer whose lust for booty caused the fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. On the other hand, Bernard Hamilton says that he was the only crusader leader who tried to prevent Saladin from unifying the nearby Muslim states.
He was originally sent to Fatimid Egypt in 1164 alongside his uncle Shirkuh, a general of the Zengid army, on the orders of their lord Nur ad-Din to help restore Shawar as vizier of the teenage Fatimid caliph al-Adid. A power struggle ensued between Shirkuh and Shawar after the latter was reinstated. Saladin, meanwhile, climbed the ranks of the Fatimid government by virtue of his military successes against Crusader assaults against its territory and his personal closeness to al-Adid.
After Shawar was assassinated and Shirkuh died in 1169, al-Adid appointed Saladin vizier, a rare nomination of a Sunni Muslim to such an important position in the Isma’ili Shia caliphate. During his tenure as vizier, Saladin began to undermine the Fatimid establishment and, following al-Adid’s death in 1171, he abolished the Fatimid Caliphate and realigned the country’s allegiance with the Sunni, Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphate.
In the following years, he led forays against the Crusaders in Palestine, commissioned the successful conquest of Yemen, and staved off pro-Fatimid rebellions in Upper Egypt. Not long after Nur ad-Din’s death in 1174, Saladin launched his conquest of Syria, peacefully entering Damascus at the request of its governor. By mid-1175, Saladin had conquered Hama and Homs, inviting the animosity of other Zengid lords, the official rulers of Syria’s various regions.
Soon after, he defeated the Zengid army at the Battle of the Horns of Hama and was thereafter proclaimed the “Sultan of Egypt and Syria” by the Abbasid caliph al-Mustadi. Saladin made further conquests in northern Syria and Jazira, escaping two attempts on his life by the “Assassins“, before returning to Egypt in 1177 to address issues there. By 1182, Saladin had completed the conquest of Muslim Syria after capturing Aleppo, but ultimately failed to take over the Zengid stronghold of Mosul.
Under Saladin’s command, the Ayyubid army defeated the Crusaders at the decisive Battle of Hattin in 1187, and thereafter wrested control of Palestine—including the city of Jerusalem—from the Crusaders, who had conquered the area 88 years earlier. Although the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem continued to exist until the late 13th century, its defeat at Hattin marked a turning point in its conflict with the Muslim powers of the region. Saladin died in Damascus in 1193, having given away much of his personal wealth to his subjects. He is buried in a mausoleum adjacent to the Umayyad Mosque. Saladin has become a prominent figure in Muslim, Arab, Turkish and Kurdish culture, and he has often been described as being the most famous Kurd in history.
Vietnam: An Epic History of a Divisive War 1945-1975
Click to buy
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
‘His masterpiece’ Antony Beevor, Spectator
‘A masterful performance’ Sunday Times
‘By far the best book on the Vietnam War’ Gerald Degroot, The Times, Book of the Year
My Thoughts ?
I’ve just finished reading this ( all 722 pages) and it sure is an Epic read and forensic analysis of the war , the history of the region and the American’s ill fated journey through the nightmare theatre of the tragedy that was the Vietnam War. Full of interesting and revealing background and personal stories from those on all side , including Johnson and Nixons involvement.
War by Proxy ?
Seemed that way to me, the Americans and their partners were so paranoid about the commie’s getting a foot in the door they were blind to the spiders web they had walked into. Not for the faint hearted, but if you like to get under the skin and know all the details this book is a great way to start!
Vietnam became the Western world’s most divisive modern conflict, precipitating a battlefield humiliation for France in 1954, then a vastly greater one for the United States in 1975. Max Hastings has spent the past three years interviewing scores of participants on both sides, as well as researching a multitude of American and Vietnamese documents and memoirs, to create an epic narrative of an epic struggle. He portrays the set pieces of Dienbienphu, the Tet offensive, the air blitz of North Vietnam, and less familiar battles such as the bloodbath at Daido, where a US Marine battalion was almost wiped out, together with extraordinary recollections of Ho Chi Minh’s warriors. Here are the vivid realities of strife amid jungle and paddies that killed 2 million people.
Many writers treat the war as a US tragedy, yet Hastings sees it as overwhelmingly that of the Vietnamese people, of whom forty died for every American. US blunders and atrocities were matched by those committed by their enemies. While all the world has seen the image of a screaming, naked girl seared by napalm, it forgets countless eviscerations, beheadings and murders carried out by the communists. The people of both former Vietnams paid a bitter price for the Northerners’ victory in privation and oppression. Here is testimony from Vietcong guerrillas, Southern paratroopers, Saigon bargirls and Hanoi students alongside that of infantrymen from South Dakota, Marines from North Carolina, Huey pilots from Arkansas.
No past volume has blended a political and military narrative of the entire conflict with heart-stopping personal experiences, in the fashion that Max Hastings’ readers know so well. The author suggests that neither side deserved to win this struggle with so many lessons for the 21st century about the misuse of military might to confront intractable political and cultural challenges. He marshals testimony from warlords and peasants, statesmen and soldiers, to create an extraordinary record.
From his home in the small village of Donaghcloney, County Down, five miles southeast of Lurgan, Jackson is alleged to have organised and committed a series of killings, mainly against Catholic civilians, although he was never convicted in connection with any killing and never served any lengthy prison terms.
At least 50 killings in Northern Ireland have been attributed to him, according to Stephen Howe (New Statesman) and David McKittrick (Lost Lives).
Journalist Kevin Dowling in the Irish Independent alleged that Jackson had headed the gang that perpetrated the Miami Showband killings, which left three members of the cabaret band dead and two wounded. Journalist Joe Tiernan and the Pat Finucane Centre alleged this as well as Jackson’s involvement in the Dublin bombings.
When questioned about the latter, Jackson denied involvement. Findings noted in a report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) (released in December 2011) confirmed that Jackson was linked to the Miami Showband attack through his fingerprints, which had been found on the silencer specifically made for the Luger pistol used in the shootings.
The views and opinions expressed in this post/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.
Some time later, he went to live in the Mourneview Estate in Lurgan, County Armagh before making his permanent home in the village of Donaghcloney, County Down, five miles southeast of Lurgan. Jackson married and made a living by working in a shoe factory and delivering chickens for the Moy Park food processing company throughout most of the 1970s.
Around the same time Jackson was expelled from the regiment for undisclosed reasons, he joined the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade‘s Lurgan unit. The UVF drew its greatest strength as well as the organisation’s most ruthless members from its Mid-Ulster Brigade, according to journalist Brendan O’Brien.
The Pat Finucane Centre‘s allegation that he had taken part in the UVF’s 23 October 1972 raid on the UDR/TA depot indicates that he was most likely already an active UVF member prior to being dismissed from the UDR.
Anne Cadwallader states in her 2013 book Lethal Allies that Jackson was expelled from the UDR on 4 March 1974; by then he was discernibly involved in UVF activity.
As the Provisional IRA continued to wage its militant campaign across Northern Ireland throughout 1972, many loyalists felt their community was under attack and their status was being threatened and sought to retaliate against Irish nationalists and republicans by joining one of the two main loyalist paramilitary organisations, the illegal UVF or the legal Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
Many members of loyalist paramilitary groups such as the UVF and UDA managed to join the UDR despite the vetting process. Their purpose in doing so was to obtain weapons, training and intelligence.
Vetting procedures were carried out jointly by the Intelligence Corps and the RUC Special Branch and if no intelligence was found to suggest unsuitability, individuals were passed for recruitment and would remain as soldiers until the commanding officer was provided with intelligence enabling him to remove soldiers with paramilitary links or sympathies.
Operating mainly around the Lurgan and Portadown areas, the Mid-Ulster Brigade had been set up in 1972 in Lurgan by Billy Hanna, who appointed himself commander. His leadership was endorsed by the UVF’s supreme commander Gusty Spence.
Hanna was a decorated war hero, having won the Military Medal for gallantry in the Korean War when he served with the Royal Ulster Rifles. He later joined the UDR, serving as a permanent staff instructor (PSI) and holding the rank of sergeant. According to David McKittrick, he was dismissed from the regiment two years later “for UVF activity”;
The regimental history of the UDR confirms this although journalist/author Martin Dillon states in his book, The Dirty War, that at the time of his death Hanna was still a member of the UDR.
Hanna’s unit formed part of the “Glenanne gang“, a loose alliance of loyalist extremists which allegedly functioned under the direction of the Intelligence Corps and/or RUC Special Branch.
It comprised rogue elements of the RUC and its Special Patrol Group (SPG), the UDR, the UDA, as well as the UVF.
The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), in collaboration with an international panel of inquiry (headed by Professor Douglass Cassel, formerly of Northwestern University School of Law) has implicated this gang in 87 killings which were carried out in the 1970s against Catholics and nationalists.
The name, first used in 2003, is derived from a farm in Glenanne, County Armagh, which the UVF regularly used as an arms dump and bomb-making site. It was owned by James Mitchell, an RUC reservist. According to John Weir, the gang usually did not use the name UVF whenever it claimed its attacks; instead it employed the cover names of “Red Hand Commando“, “Protestant Action Force“, or “Red Hand Brigade”. Weir named Jackson as a key player in the Glenanne gang.
He was first arrested on 8 November 1973 for the killing on 28 October of Patrick Campbell, a Catholic trade unionist from Banbridge who was gunned down on his doorstep. Jackson’s words after he was charged with the killing were:
“Nothing. I just can’t believe it”.
Campbell’s wife, Margaret had opened the door to the gunman and his accomplice when they had come looking for her husband. She had got a good look at the two men, who drove off in a Ford Cortina after the shooting, and although she identified Jackson as the killer at an identity parade, murder charges against him were dropped on 4 January 1974 at BelfastMagistrates’ Court.
The charges were allegedly withdrawn because the RUC thought Mrs. Campbell knew him beforehand. Jackson confirmed this, saying that they had met previously on account that he worked in the same Banbridge shoe factory (Down Shoes Ltd.) as Patrick Campbell.
It was suggested in David McKittrick’s Lost Lives that some time before the shooting there may have been a “minor political disagreement” between Jackson and Campbell while the two men were on a night out.
Raymond Murray, in his book The SAS in Ireland, suggested that his accomplice in the shooting was Wesley Somerville. Irish writer and journalist Hugh Jordan also maintains this allegation.
When the RUC had searched Jackson’s house after his arrest they discovered 49 additional bullets to those allotted a serving member of the UDR. A notebook was also found which contained personal details of over two dozen individuals including their car registration numbers.
Weir stated in an affidavit that Jackson was one of those who had planned and carried out the Dublin car bombings. According to Weir, Jackson, along with the main organiser Billy Hanna and Davy Payne (UDA, Belfast), led one of the two UVF units that bombed Dublin on 17 May 1974 in three separate explosions, resulting in the deaths of 26 people, including two infant girls. Close to 300 others were injured in the blasts; many of them maimed and scarred for life.
Journalist Peter Taylor affirmed that the Dublin car bombings were carried out by two UVF units, one from Mid-Ulster, the other from Belfast.
In 2003, Weir’s information was published in the Barron Report, which was the findings of an official investigation into the bombings by Irish Supreme Court Justice Henry Barron.
Justice Barron concluded Weir’s “evidence overall is credible”. An article by Paul Foot in Private Eye also implicated Jackson in the bombings.
The producers of the 1993 Yorkshire Television documentary, The Hidden Hand: The Forgotten Massacre, referred to Jackson indirectly as one of the bombers. However, three of his alleged accomplices, Billy Hanna, Harris Boyle, and Robert McConnell were directly named.
Although the incriminating evidence against Jackson had comprised eight hours of recorded testimony which came from one of his purported chief accomplices in the bombings, the programme did not name him directly during the transmission as the station did not want to risk an accusation of libel.
The programme’s narrator instead referred to him as “the Jackal”. Hanna, Boyle, and McConnell were deceased at the time of the programme’s airing.
According to submissions received by Mr. Justice Barron, on the morning of 17 May 1974, the day of the bombings, Jackson collected the three bombs and placed them onto his poultry lorry at James Mitchell‘s farm in Glenanne, County Armagh, which had been used for the construction and storage of the devices.
He then drove across the border to Dublin, crossing the Boyne River at Oldbridge. The route had been well-rehearsed over the previous months. Billy Hanna, then the Mid-Ulster UVF’s commander and the principal organiser of the attacks, accompanied him.
At the Coachman’s Inn pub carpark on the Swords Road near Dublin Airport, the two men met up with the other members of the UVF bombing team. Jackson and Hanna subsequently transferred the bombs from his lorry into the boots of three allocated cars, which had been hijacked and stolen that morning in Belfast. The Hidden Hand producers named William “Frenchie” Marchant of the UVF’s A Coy, 1st Battalion Belfast Brigade, as having been on a Garda list of suspects as the organiser of the hijackings in Belfast on the morning of the bombings.
The cars, after being obtained by the gang of hijackers, known as “Freddie and the Dreamers”, were driven from Belfast across the border to the carpark, retaining their original registration numbers.
Journalist Joe Tiernan suggested that the bombs were activated by Billy Hanna. Sometime before 4.00 p.m., Jackson and Hanna headed back to Northern Ireland in the poultry lorry after the latter had given the final instructions to the drivers of the car bombs.
Upon their return, Jackson and Hanna went back to the soup kitchen they were running at a Mourneville, Lurgan bingo hall. With the UWC strike in its third day, it was extremely difficult for people throughout Northern Ireland to obtain necessities such as food. Neither man’s absence had been noticed by the other helpers.
Following Hanna’s orders, the three car bombs (two of them escorted by a “scout” [lead] car, to be used for the bombers’ escape back across the Northern Ireland border) were driven into the city centre of Dublin where they detonated in Parnell Street, Talbot Street, and South Leinster Street, almost simultaneously at approximately 5.30 pm.
No warnings were given. From the available forensic evidence derived from material traces at the scene, the bombs are believed to have contained, as their main tertiary explosive a gelignite containing ammonium nitrate, packed into the usual metallic beer barrel container used by loyalists in prior car bombings.
Twenty-three people were killed outright in the blasts, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child; three more people would later die of their injuries. The bodies of the dead were mostly unrecognisable. One girl who had been near the epicentre of the Talbot Street explosion was decapitated; only her platform boots provided a clue as to her sex.
The bombers immediately fled from the destruction they had wrought in central Dublin in the two scout cars and made their way north using the “smuggler’s route” of minor and back roads, crossing the border near Hackballs Cross, County Louth at about 7.30 pm.
Thirty minutes earlier in Monaghan, an additional seven people were killed instantly or fatally injured by a fourth car bomb which had been delivered by a team from the Mid-Ulster UVF’s Portadown unit. According to Joe Tiernan, this attack was carried out to draw the Gardaí away from the border, enabling the Dublin bombers to cross back into Northern Ireland undetected.
Jackson was questioned following the Yorkshire Television programme, and he denied any involvement in the Dublin attacks.[ His name had appeared on a Garda list of suspects for the bombings. Hanna’s name was on both the Garda and the RUC’s list of suspects; however, neither of the two men were ever arrested or interrogated in connection with the bombings. The submissions made to the Barron Inquiry also stated that one week before the Dublin attacks, Jackson and others had been stopped at a Garda checkpoint at Hackballs Cross.
As it turned out, nobody was ever convicted of the car bombings. Years later, British journalist Peter Taylor in an interview with Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) politician and former senior Belfast UVF member David Ervine questioned him about UVF motives for the 1974 Dublin attacks. Ervine replied they [UVF] were:
“returning the serve”.
Ervine, although he had not participated in the bombings, explained that the UVF had wanted the Catholics across the border in the Republic of Ireland to suffer as Protestants in Northern Ireland had suffered on account of the intensive bombing campaign waged by the Provisional IRA.
On 28 May 1974, 11 days after the bombings, the UWC strike ended with the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the power-sharing Executive.
On the evening of 10 January 1975, gunmen kicked down the front door of the “safe” house Green was staying in and, finding him alone in the living room, immediately opened fire, shooting him six times in the head at close range. The bullets all entered from the front, which indicated that Green had been facing his killers.
The UVF claimed responsibility for the killing in the June 1975 edition of its publication, Combat. Green’s killing occurred during an IRA ceasefire, which had been declared the previous month.
Assassination of Billy Hanna and leadership of UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade
Subsequent to his alleged killing of leader Billy Hanna outside his home in Lurgan in the early hours of 27 July 1975, Jackson assumed command of the Mid-Ulster Brigade.
Hanna and his wife Ann had just returned from a function at the local British Legion Club. When he stepped out of the car, Jackson and another man approached him. After asking them “What are you playing at?” Jackson produced a pistol, walked over and shot him twice in the head; once in the temple and afterwards in the back of the head, execution style as he lay on the ground. His wife witnessed the killing.
Joe Tiernan suggested that Jackson killed Hanna on account of the latter’s refusal to participate in the Miami Showband killings. Hanna apparently suffered remorse following the 1974 Dublin bombings, as he is believed by Tiernan to have instructed one of the bombers, David Alexander Mulholland to drive the car which exploded in Parnell Street, where two infant girls were among those killed.
According to Tiernan and the Barron Report, David Alexander Mulholland was identified by three eyewitnesses. Tiernan also suggested that Hanna and Mulholland became informers for the Gardaí regarding the car bombings in exchange for immunity from prosecution. He added that although the British Army was aware of this, Jackson was never told, as it was feared he would decide to become an informer himself
Investigative journalist Paul Larkin, in his book A Very British Jihad: collusion, conspiracy, and cover-up in Northern Ireland maintained that Jackson, accompanied by Harris Boyle, had shot Hanna after learning that he had passed on information regarding the Dublin bombings.
Martin Dillon also claims this in The Trigger Men. Dillon also stated in The Dirty War that because a number of UDR/UVF men were to be used for the planned Miami Showband attack, the UVF considered Hanna to have been a “security risk”, and therefore it had been necessary to kill him.
David McKittrick in Lost Lives, however, suggested that Jackson had actually killed Hanna in order to obtain a cache of weapons the latter held.
The UVF drew its greatest strength as well as the organisation’s most ruthless members from its Mid-Ulster Brigade according to Irish journalist Brendan O’Brien.
It was stated by The Hidden Hand programme that Jackson had links to British Military Intelligence and Liaison officer Captain Robert Nairac.
The Hidden Hand alleged that Jackson and his UVF comrades were controlled by Nairac who was attached to 14th Intelligence Company (The Det). Former MI6 operative, Captain Fred Holroyd claimed that Nairac admitted to having been involved in John Francis Green’s death and had shown Holroyd a colour polaroid photograph of Green’s corpse to back up his claim. Holroyd believed that for some months leading up to his shooting, Green had been kept under surveillance by 4 Field Survey Troop, Royal Engineers, one of the three sub-units of 14th Intelligence.
This unit was based in Castledillon, County Armagh, and according to Holroyd, was the cover name of an SAS troop commanded by Nairac and Captain Julian Antony “Tony” Ball. Nairac was himself abducted and killed by the IRA in 1977, and Ball was killed in an accident in Oman in 1981.
Justice Barron himself questioned Holroyd’s evidence as a result of two later Garda investigations, where Detective Inspector Culhane discounted Holroyd’s allegations regarding Nairac and the polaroid photograph. Culhane concluded that the latter had been one of a series of official photographs taken of Green’s body the morning following his killing by Detective Sergeant William Stratford, who worked in the Garda Technical Bureau‘s Photography Section.
Weir made the following statements in relation to Jackson and Nairac’s alleged mutual involvement in the Green assassination:
The men who did that shooting were Robert McConnell, Robin Jackson, and I would be almost certain, Harris Boyle who was killed in the Miami attack. What I am absolutely certain of is that Robert McConnell, Robert McConnell knew that area really, really well. Robin Jackson was with him. I was later told that Nairac was with them. I was told by … a UVF man, he was very close to Jackson and operated with him. Jackson told [him] that Nairac was with them.
In his 1989 book War Without Honour, Holyroyd claimed that Nairac had organised the Miami Showband ambush in collaboration with Jackson, and had also been present at Buskhill when the attack was carried out.
Bassist Stephen Travers and saxophonist Des McAlea, the two bandmembers who survived the shootings, both testified in court that a British Army officer “with a crisp, clipped English accent” had overseen the operation. However, when shown a photograph of Nairac, Travers could not positively identify him as the soldier who had been at the scene.
Martin Dillon in The Dirty War adamantly stated that Nairac had not been involved in the Green killing nor in the Miami Showband massacre.
The Barron Report noted that although Weir maintained that Jackson and Billy Hanna had links to Nairac and British Military Intelligence, his claim did not imply that the British Army or Military Intelligence had aided the two men in the planning and perpetration of the 1974 Dublin bombings. While in prison, Weir wrote a letter to a friend claiming that Nairac had ties to both Jackson and James Mitchell, owner of the Glenanne farm.
The 2006 Interim Report of Mr. Justice Barron’s inquiry into the Dundalk bombing of 1975 (see below) concluded that Jackson was one of the suspected bombers:
“reliably said to have had relationships with British Intelligence and or RUC Special Branch officers”.
In 2015, a biography of Nairac entitled “Betrayal: the Murder of Robert Nairac” was published. Written by former diplomat Alistair Kerr, the book provides documentary evidence that shows Nairac as having been elsewhere at the time the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, John Francis Green killing and Miami Showband ambush took place.
On 17 May 1974 he was on a months-long training course in England; 10 January 1975 there were three witnesses who placed him on temporary duty in Derry for a secret mission; and on 31 July 1975 at 4am he had started on a road journey from London to Scotland for a fishing holiday.
The 2006 Interim Report named Jackson as having possibly been one of the two gunmen in the shooting death of the McKearney couple on 23 October 1975. Peter McKearney was shot between 14 and 18 times, and his wife, Jenny 11 times. The shooting took place at their home in Moy, County Tyrone; Jackson was linked to the 9mm Sterling submachine gun used in the killings. “Glenanne gang” member Garnet Busby pleaded guilty to the killings and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
John Weir claimed that Jackson led the group who bombed Kay’s Tavern pub in Dundalk on 19 December 1975, which killed two men. Barron implicated the “Glenanne gang” in the bombing, however, Jackson was not identified by any eyewitnesses at or in the vicinity of Kay’s Tavern.[
Gardaí received information from a reliable source that Jackson and his car – a Vauxhall Viva with the registration number CIA 2771 – were involved in the bombing; yet there were no witnesses who reported having seen the car. The RUC stated that Jackson had been observed celebrating at a Banbridge bar at 9.00 pm on the evening of the attack in the company of other loyalist extremists. The implication was that they were celebrating the Kay’s Tavern bombing.
The following month, on 4 January 1976, Jackson supposedly organised the “Glenanne gang”‘s two co-ordinated sectarian attacks against the O’Dowd and Reavey families in County Armagh, leaving a total of five men dead and one injured.
Weir maintained that it was Jackson who shot 61-year-old Joseph O’Dowd and his two nephews, Barry and Declan, to death at a family celebration in Ballydougan, near Gilford; although Jackson had not been at the scene where the Reavey brothers had been killed twenty minutes earlier.
The day after the double killing, ten Protestant workmen were gunned down by the South Armagh Republican Action Force, who ambushed their minibus near the village of Kingsmill. The shootings were in retaliation for the O’Dowd and Reavey killings. The Glenanne gang made plans to avenge the Kingsmill victims with an attack on St Lawrence O’Toole Primary School, Belleeks. This plan, which involved the killing of at least 30 schoolchildren and their teacher, was called off at the last minute by the UVF’s Brigade Staff (Belfast leadership), who considered it “morally unacceptable” and feared it would have led to a civil war.
Based on the description given by Barney O’Dowd, a survivor of the shooting attack at Ballydougan, one of the weapons used in the O’Dowd killings was a Luger with an attached silencer. The findings noted in the HET Report on the Miami Showband killings revealed that on 19 May 1976, two fingerprints belonging to Jackson were discovered on the metal barrel of a home-made silencer constructed for a Luger pistol.
Both the silencer and Luger, as well as more firearms, ammunition, a magazine, explosives, and bomb-making material, were found by the security forces at the farm of a man by the name of Edward Sinclair, a former member of the “B Specials“. The exhibit, however, was mistakenly labelled indicating that his prints had been found on the black insulating tape wrapped around the silencer rather than the silencer itself.
After several unsuccessful attempts to apprehend Jackson between 20 and 30 May, Jackson was arrested at his home on 31 May under Section 10 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973; he was taken to Armagh Police Station. This was when the amended information regarding his fingerprints was delivered to Detective Superintendent Ernest Drew at Armagh. Drew and Detective Constable William Elder both questioned him; Jackson denied ever having been at Sinclair’s farm whilst admitting knowing him through the Portadown Loyalist Club which they both frequented.
When shown the Luger, silencer and magazine (but not the insulating tape), Jackson denied having handled them. When asked by Detective Superintendent Drew to provide an explanation should his fingerprints be discovered on either pistol or silencer, Jackson told him that one night at the Portadown Loyalist Club, Sinclair had asked him for some adhesive tape and Jackson claimed
“I gave him part of the roll I was using in the bar”.
Jackson had allegedly been using the tape whilst lapping hoses for beer kegs at the bar. In his statement to Detective Superintendent Drew, Jackson claimed that one week prior to his arrest, two high-ranking RUC officers had tipped him off about his fingerprints having been found on the insulating tape wrapped around the silencer used with the Luger. Jackson went on to say that he was forewarned, using the words:
“I should clear as there was a wee job up the country that I would be done for and there was no way out of it for me”.
On 2 June, Jackson was charged with possession of a firearm, a magazine, four rounds of ammunition and a silencer with intent to endanger life. He was detained in custody and went to trial on 11 November 1976 at a Diplock Court held at Belfast City Commission, charged only with possession of the silencer. Although the judge initially rejected his defence that his fingerprints were on the insulating tape and had “been innocently transferred to the silencer”, he managed to avoid conviction when he was acquitted of the charge.
The trial judge, Mr Justice Murray, had said: “At the end of the day I find that the accused somehow touched the silencer, but the Crown evidence has left me completely in the dark as to whether he did that wittingly or unwittingly, willingly or unwillingly”.
As a result of the judicious examination of forensic ballistics procured from original RUC reports and presented to Justice Barron, the 9 mm Luger pistol, serial no. U 4 for which the silencer was specifically made, was established as having been the same one used in the Miami Showband and John Francis Green killings.
According to journalist Tom McGurk, Miami Showband trumpeter Brian McCoy was shot nine times in the back with a Luger pistol. The Miami inquiry team was never informed of these developments and Jackson was never questioned about the Miami Showband killings following the discovery of his fingerprints on the silencer. The Luger pistol serial no.U 4 was later destroyed by the RUC on 28 August 1978.
Barney O’Dowd claimed RUC detectives in the 1980s admitted to him that Jackson had been the man who shot the three O’Dowd men, but the evidence had not been sufficient to charge him with the killings.
In 2006, Barney O’Dowd spoke at the public hearings of the Houses of the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on the Barron Report Debate. He maintained that in June 1976 an RUC detective came to see him at his home and told him the gunman could not be charged with the killings as he was the “head of the UVF” and a “hard man” who could not be broken during police interrogation. Additionally the UVF had threatened to start shooting policeman like the IRA were doing if the gunman was ever charged with murder.
Weir stated in his affidavit that on one occasion some months after he was transferred to Newry RUC station in October 1976, Jackson himself, and another RUC officer and “Glenanne gang” member, Gary Armstrong, went on a reconnaissance in south Armagh seeking out the homes of known IRA members, with the aim of assassinating them. Jackson, according to Weir, carried a knife and hammer, and boasted to Weir that if they happened to:
“find a suitable person to kill”, he [Jackson] “knew how to do it with those weapons”.
They approached the houses of two IRA men; however, the plan to attack them was aborted and they drove back to Lurgan. They were stopped at an RUC roadblock near the Republic of Ireland border, but the three men were waved through, after an exchange of courtesies, despite the presence of Jackson in the car with two RUC officers.
He was implicated by Weir in the killing of Catholic chemist, William Strathearn, who was shot at his home in Ahoghill, County Antrim after two men knocked on his door at 2.00 am on 19 April 1977 claiming to need medicine for a sick child.
Strathearn lived above his chemist’s shop. Weir was one of the RUC men later convicted of the killing, along with his SPG colleague, Billy McCaughey, and he named Jackson as having been the gunman, alleging that Jackson had told him after the shooting that he had shot Strathearn twice when the latter opened the door.
Weir and McCaughey had waited in Weir’s car while the shooting was carried out. The gun that Jackson used had been given to him by McCaughey, with the instructions that he was only to fire through an upstairs window to frighten the occupants and make sure they “got the message”, and not to kill anyone. As in the Dublin bombings, Jackson’s poultry lorry was also employed on this occasion, specifically to transport himself and Robert John “R.J.” Kerr, another alleged accomplice, to and from the scene of the crime. After the killing, Jackson and Kerr went on to deliver a load of chickens. Kerr was allegedly Jackson’s lorry helper, assisting in loading and unloading chickens which Jackson sold for a living.
Jackson was never questioned about the killing. According to an RUC detective, he was not interrogated for “reasons of operational strategy”. Weir suggested that “Jackson was untouchable because he was an RUC Special Branch agent.”
The Barron Report stated that Weir had made an offer to testify against Jackson and Robert John “R.J”. Kerr, but only on the condition that the murder charge against him was withdrawn. This offer was refused by the Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions who said
Kerr and Jackson have not been interviewed by the police because the police state they are virtually immune to interrogation and the common police consensus is that to arrest and interview either man is a waste of time. Both men are known to police to be very active and notorious UVF murderers. Nevertheless the police do not recommend consideration of withdrawal of charges against Weir. I agree with this view. Weir and McCaughey must be proceeded against. When proceedings against them are terminated the position may be reviewed in respect of Jackson and Kerr.
It is noted in the Barron Report that Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief JusticeRobert Lowry was aware of Jackson and Kerr’s involvement in the Strathearn killing, and that they were not prosecuted for “operational reasons”. Mr. Justice Barron was highly critical of the RUC’s failure to properly investigate Jackson.
“I think it is important to make it clear that this collusion between loyalist paramilitaries such as Robin Jackson and my RUC colleagues and me was taking place with the full knowledge of my superiors”.
The interior of Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast. Following his arrest in 1979 for possession of guns, ammunition, and hoods, Jackson was remanded in custody to the prison to await trial
Journalist Liam Clarke alleged that in early 1978, Weir and Jackson traveled to Castleblaney with the intention of kidnapping an IRA volunteer named Dessie O’Hare from a pub called The Spinning Wheel. However, when Jackson and Weir arrived, they discovered the publican had been warned of the kidnap plot and they were ordered to leave the premises.
Jackson’s sole conviction came after he was arrested on 16 October 1979 when a .22 pistol, a .38 revolver, a magazine, 13 rounds of ammunition, and hoods were found in his possession.He was remanded in custody to Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast to await trial. On 20 January 1981, Jackson was brought before the Belfast Crown Court on charges of possession of guns and ammunition, and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
He was released on 12 May 1983.
A man whose description matched Jackson’s was seen behaving suspiciously in the vicinity of Lurgan RUC barracks close to where three prominent republicans were later ambushed and shot by masked UVF gunmen after they left the police station on 7 March 1990. The republicans had been signing in at the station as part of their bail conditions for charges of possession of ammunition. Sam Marshall was killed in the attack; Colin Duffy and Tony McCaughey were both wounded. Although the shooting was claimed by the UVF, the gunmen were never caught. Two UVF members were later convicted of having supplied the car used in the ambush.
Weir’s affidavit contradicted this as it pointed out that although Jackson was aware that the killings were to take place, he had not been at the scene of the crime; a solicitor informed Weir he had been with Jackson at his home at the time the shootings occurred to provide him with an alibi. Investigative journalist Paul Larkin suggested that the shooting attack against the shop was organised by Jackson upon receiving complaints from UDR soldiers after they had been refused service and insulted by the mobile shop employees.
Larkin identified one of the hitmen as Mark “Swinger” Fulton. Although the RUC initially arrested UVF members associated with Jackson, they then focused their attention on the men belonging to the Mid-Ulster Brigade’s Portadown unit led by Billy Wright. Fulton was a prominent member of this unit and served as Wright’s right-hand man.
Reputation and further allegations
Designated by Weir the “most notorious paramilitary in Northern Ireland”, at least 50 killings were directly attributed to Jackson, according to journalists Stephen Howe in the New Statesman, and David McKittrick in his book Lost Lives.
Kevin Dowling in the Irish Independent, dubbed Jackson the “Lord High Executioner of the North’s notorious murder triangle”, adding that he was infamous from Belfast to the Irish border for “the intensity and fury of his instinct to kill”.
A former UDR soldier who had served with Jackson described him as a sectarian killer who had a visceral hatred of Catholics but that :
“you were always glad to have him with you when you were out on patrol”.
Unnamed Intelligence officers personally acquainted with Jackson stated that he was a psychopath who would often dress up and attend the funerals of his victims because he felt a need “to make sure they were dead.”
Described as a sardonic man who was extremely dedicated; physically he was dark-haired, blue-eyed, “small, but firmly-built”. Suspicious by nature, he repeatedly advised his associates that they should never reveal secret information to anyone. His paranoia and fear of recognition by his potential victims was such that he attempted to destroy all photographs of himself including school and family pictures.
Psychological warfare operative Major Colin Wallace corroborated the allegations, stating that
[E]verything people had whispered about Robin Jackson for years was perfectly true. He was a hired gun. A professional assassin. He was responsible for more deaths in the North [Northern Ireland] than any other person I knew. The Jackal killed people for a living. The State not only knew that he was doing it. Its servants encouraged him to kill its political opponents and protected him.
Wallace also named Jackson as having been “centrally-involved” in the Dublin bombings, but like Weir, suggested that the principal organiser had been Billy Hanna. Wallace’s psychological operations unit typically targeted loyalist extremists; however, during the period of 1973 and 1974 he was refused clearance to target principal members of the Mid-Ulster UVF despite an increase in paramilitary activity from the organisation.
In June 1974, a month after the bombings, Wallace was denied permission to target key loyalists including Jackson and Hanna, as their names were on a list which excluded them from being targeted for psychological operations. This appeared to indicate that in practice, those members of paramilitaries whose names were listed were also excluded from being targeted for prosecution.
Liam Clarke of the Sunday Times made the following statements regarding Jackson and his reported special relationship with the security forces and military intelligence:
Jackson had many allies still serving in the UDR and close links to special forces soldiers. These included Bunny Dearsley of military intelligence and Robert Nairac, Tony Ball and other soldiers attached to the undercover 14th Intelligence Unit. These officers met him at a bar in Moira and many suspect that he was involved in murders set up by military contacts at that time. In the late 1970s, he [Jackson] was a binge drinker and sometimes boasted to UVF associates of “someone looking after me”. Some took this as a reference to God, or even the Devil, but the most likely explanation is that it referred to members of the Army’s intelligence corps.
Originally nicknamed “Jacko”, Jackson was given the more sinister sobriquet, “the Jackal” by Sunday World newspaper’s Northern Ireland editor Jim Campbell when he investigated and exposed Jackson’s alleged paramilitary activities – including his involvement in the Miami Showband killings – and links to British Military Intelligence.
In retaliation, Jackson reportedly approached members of the violent loyalist Shankill Butchers gang in Belfast, who (at Jackson’s request) shot and seriously wounded Campbell on 18 May 1984. According to journalist Joe Gorrod of The Mirror, it was reported in the Irish Times that the SAS took Jackson abroad where he received specialist training. In the late 1980s, he was also sent by MI5 to South Africa and Australia to buy weapons that were shipped back to loyalist paramilitaries and Ulster Resistance in Northern Ireland.Gorrod wrote that Jackson kept hidden files that incriminated the politicians and businessmen who were involved with Jackson in the loyalist arms shipments.
In his book Loyalists, British journalist Peter Taylor devotes pages 187–195 to the loyalists’ South African arms deals which had taken place in the late 1980s. Jackson’s name does not appear in the account nor is Australia referred to. Joe Gorrod is the only journalist to make these allegations although Henry McDonald (of The Guardian) affirmed that Jackson lived for a period of time in South Africa during the 1980s.
The purported files, which were kept with a friend, would have ensured Jackson that he would never be sentenced to a lengthy imprisonment.
In the early 1990s, he handed over command of the Mid-Ulster UVF to Portadown unit leader Billy Wright, also known as “King Rat”. Wright formed the breakaway Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) in 1996. This was after he and his Portadown unit had been stood down by the UVF’s Brigade Staff in Belfast on 2 August 1996, following the unauthorised killing of a Catholic taxi driver by members of Wright’s group outside Lurgan during the Drumcree disturbances when the UVF were on ceasefire.
Although Wright took the officially-disbanded Portadown unit with him to form the LVF, Jackson, despite being on friendly terms with Wright, remained loyal to the UVF leadership as did most of the other Mid-Ulster Brigade units. Wright was shot dead inside the Maze Prison on 27 December 1997 by Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) inmates while waiting in a prison van which was transporting him to a visit with his girlfriend. Wright had been sentenced to eight years imprisonment for having threatened a woman’s life.
Jackson was confronted in 1998 by the son of RUC Sergeant Joseph Campbell, a Catholic constable gunned down outside the Cushendall, County Antrim RUC station in February 1977, as he was locking up. It was rumoured that Jackson had been the hitman sent to shoot Campbell on behalf of an RUC Special Branch officer.
Weir, in his affidavit, claimed Jackson, prior to Campbell’s shooting, had informed him of the RUC officer’s request. Jackson, by then dying of cancer, told Campbell’s son that he had not been involved in the killing. The UVF, at a secret meeting with journalists, declared that Jackson had no part in Campbell’s killing. The case was later placed under investigation by the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
Jackson died of lung cancer at his Donaghcloney home on Saturday, 30 May 1998 and was buried the following Monday, 1 June in a private ceremony in the St. Bartholomew Church of Ireland churchyard in his native Donaghmore, County Down. His grave, close to that of his parents, is unmarked apart from a steel poppy cross.
He was 49 years old.His father had died in 1985 and his mother outlived him for five years.
After his death, a friend of Jackson told Gorrod that Jackson had no regrets about his UVF activities; however, due to his religious upbringing he was tormented by feelings of remorse on his deathbed believing that he had been “drawn into a world of evil that wasn’t of his making”. One of his last wishes was that the secret documents incriminating the politicians and businessmen with whom he associated be released to the public. Liam Clarke suggested the killing of Billy Hanna was the only killing Jackson ever regretted, admitting it had been “unfair” to kill him.
Journalist Martin O’Hagan had been in the process of writing a book about Jackson but his assassination by the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) in 2001 prevented its completion. Along with Billy Hanna and other senior loyalists, Jackson was commemorated in the UVF song Battalion of the Dead. In May 2010, angry relatives of UVF victims unsuccessfully sought the removal of the song from YouTube.
Silk Road was an online black market and the first modern darknet market, best known as a platform for selling illegal drugs. As part of the dark web, it was operated as a Tor hidden service, such that online users were able to browse it anonymously and securely without potential traffic monitoring. The website was launched in February 2011; development had begun six months prior.
Initially there were a limited number of new seller accounts available; new sellers had to purchase an account in an auction. Later, a fixed fee was charged for each new seller account.[
In October 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shut down the website and arrested Ross Ulbricht under charges of being the site’s pseudonymous founder “Dread Pirate Roberts”.
On 6 November 2013, Silk Road 2.0 came online, run by former administrators of Silk Road.
In May 2013, Silk Road was taken down for a short period of time by a sustained DDoS attack. On 23 June 2013, it was first reported that the DEA seized 11.02 bitcoins, then worth a total of $814, which the media suspected was a result of a Silk Road honeypot sting.
The FBI has claimed that the real IP address of the Silk Road server was found via data leaked directly from the site’s CAPTCHA, but security researchers believe that the PHP login page was manipulated to output its $_SERVER variable and real IP following site maintenance reconfiguration.
Henry Farrell, an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, analyzed Silk Road in an essay for Aeon in 2015.
He noted that Ulbricht created the marketplace to function without government oversight but found it difficult to verify anonymous transactions. To sustain a steady stream of revenue, he started increasing oversight to ensure low transaction costs. To do this, he added measures to ensure trustworthiness with implementation of an automated escrow payment system and automated review system.
The dark Web, Silk Road
Arrest and trial of Ross Ulbricht
Thanks in part to off-duty research conducted by IRS criminal investigator Gary Alford, Ross Ulbricht was alleged by the FBI to be the founder and owner of Silk Road and the person behind the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts” (DPR). He was arrested on 2 October 2013 in San Francisco at 3:15 p.m. PST
in Glen Park Library, a branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Ulbricht was indicted on charges of money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic narcotics, and attempting to have six people killed.Prosecutors alleged that Ulbricht paid $730,000 to others to commit the murders, although none of the murders actually occurred. Ulbricht ultimately was not prosecuted for any of the alleged murder attempts.
The FBI initially seized 26,000 bitcoins from accounts on Silk Road, worth approximately $3.6 million at the time. An FBI spokesperson said that the agency would hold the bitcoins until Ulbricht’s trial finished, after which the bitcoins would be liquidated.
In October 2013, the FBI reported that it had seized 144,000 bitcoins, worth $28.5 million, and that the bitcoins belonged to Ulbricht. On 27 June 2014, the U.S. Marshals Service sold 29,657 bitcoins in 10 blocks in an online auction, estimated to be worth $18 million at current rates and only about a quarter of the seized bitcoins. Another 144,342 bitcoins were kept which had been found on Ulbricht’s computer, roughly $87 million.
What are bitcoins?
Tim Draper bought the bitcoins at the auction with an estimated worth of $17 million, to lend them to a bitcoin start-up called Vaurum which is working in developing economies of emerging markets.
Ulbricht’s trial began on 13 January 2015 in Federal Court in Manhattan. At the start of the trial, Ulbricht admitted to founding the Silk Road website, but claimed to have transferred control of the site to other people soon after he founded it. Ulbricht’s lawyers contended that Dread Pirate Roberts was really Mark Karpelès, and that Karpelès set up Ulbricht as a fall guy.
However, Judge Katherine B. Forrestruled that any speculative statements regarding whether Karpelès or anyone else ran Silk Road would not be allowed, and statements already made would be stricken from the record.
In the second week of the trial, prosecutors presented documents and chat logs from Ulbricht’s computer that, they said, demonstrated how Ulbricht had administered the site for many months, which contradicted the defense’s claim that Ulbricht had relinquished control of Silk Road. Ulbricht’s attorney suggested that the documents and chat logs were planted there by way of BitTorrent, which was running on Ulbricht’s computer at the time of his arrest.
What is BitTorrent?
On 4 February 2015, the jury convicted Ulbricht of seven charges, including charges of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and computer hacking. He faced 30 years to life in prison. The government also accused Ulbricht of paying for the murders of at least five people, but there is no evidence that the murders were actually carried out, and the accusations never became formal charges against Ulbricht.
During the trial, Judge Forrest received death threats. Users of an underground site called The Hidden Wiki posted her personal information there, including her address and Social Security number. Ulbricht’s lawyer Joshua Dratel said that he and his client “obviously, and as strongly as possible, condemn” the anonymous postings against the judge.
“They do not in any way have anything to do with Ross Ulbricht or anyone associated with him or reflect his views or those of anyone associated with him”,
The agents are alleged to have kept funds that Ulbricht transferred to them in exchange for purported information about the investigation. The agents were charged with wire fraud and money laundering.
In late November 2016, Ulbricht’s lawyers brought forward a case on a third DEA agent, who they claim was leaking information about the investigation and tampered with evidence to omit chat logs showing conversations with him.
In a letter to Judge Forrest before his sentencing, Ulbricht stated that his actions through Silk Road were committed through libertarian idealism and that “Silk Road was supposed to be about giving people the freedom to make their own choices” and admitted that he made a “terrible mistake” that “ruined his life”.
He was also ordered to forfeit $183 million. Ulbricht’s lawyer Joshua Dratel said that he would appeal the sentencing and the original guilty verdict. On May 31, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied Ulbricht’s appeal, and affirmed the judgment of conviction and life sentence, in a written opinion authored by the Honorable Gerard E. Lynch, United States Circuit Judge.
In February 2013, an Australian cocaine and MDMA (“ecstasy”) dealer became the first person to be convicted of crimes directly related to Silk Road, after authorities intercepted drugs that he was importing through the mail, searched his premises, and discovered his Silk Road alias in an image file on his personal computer.
Australian police and the DEA have targeted Silk Road users and made arrests, albeit with limited success at reaching convictions. In December 2013, a New Zealand man was sentenced to two years and four months in jail after being convicted of importing 15 grams of methamphetamine that he had bought on Silk Road.
Dutch drug dealer 23-year-old Cornelis Jan “Maikel” Slomp pled guilty for large scale selling of drugs through the Silk Road website and was sentenced in Chicago to 10 years in prison on 29 May 2015 with his attorney, Paul Petruzzi, present.
Dealer Steven Sadler was sentenced to five years in prison. There have been over 130 other arrests connected with The Silk Road, although some of these arrests may not be directly related to The Silk Road, and may not be public information due to legal reasons.
Fake driver’s licenses were also offered for sale. The site’s terms of service prohibited the sale of certain items. When the Silk Road marketplace first began the creator and administrators instituted terms of service that prohibited the sale of anything whose purpose was to “harm or defraud”.
This included child pornography, stolen credit cards, assassinations, and weapons of any type; other darknet markets such as Black Market Reloaded gained user notoriety because they were not as restrictive on these items as the Silk Road incarnations were.
There were also legal goods and services for sale, such as apparel, art, books, cigarettes, erotica, jewelery, and writing services. A sister site, called “The Armory”, sold weapons (primarily guns) during 2012, but was shut down because of a lack of demand.
Buyers were able to leave reviews of sellers’ products on the site, and in an associated forum where crowdsourcing provided information about the best sellers and worst scammers.Most products were delivered through the mail, with the site’s seller’s guide instructing sellers how to vacuum-seal their products to escape detection.
A flowchart depicting Silk Road’s payment system. Exhibit 113 A, entered into evidence at Ulbricht’s trial.
Based on data from 3 February 2012 to 24 July 2012, an estimated $15 million in transactions were made annually on Silk Road. Twelve months later, Nicolas Christin, the study’s author, said in an interview that a major increase in volume to “somewhere between $30 million and $45 million” would not surprise him.
Buyers and sellers conducted all transactions with bitcoins (BTC), a cryptocurrency that provides a certain degree of anonymity. Silk Road held buyers’ bitcoins in escrow until the order had been received and a hedging mechanism allowed sellers to opt for the value of bitcoins held in escrow to be fixed to their value in US$ at the time of the sale to mitigate against Bitcoin’s volatility. Any changes in the price of bitcoins during transit were covered by Dread Pirate Roberts.
The complaint published when Ulbricht was arrested included information the FBI gained from a system image of the Silk Road server collected on 23 July 2013. It noted that, “From February 6, 2011 to July 23, 2013 there were approximately 1,229,465 transactions completed on the site. The total revenue generated from these sales was 9,519,664 Bitcoins, and the total commissions collected by Silk Road from the sales amounted to 614,305 Bitcoins.
These figures are equivalent to roughly $1.2 billion in revenue and $79.8 million in commissions, at current Bitcoin exchange rates…”, according to the September 2013 complaint, and involved 146,946 buyers and 3,877 vendors. According to information users provided upon registering, 30 percent were from the United States, 27 percent chose to be “undeclared”, and beyond that, in descending order of prevalence: the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Canada, Sweden, France, Russia, Italy, and the Netherlands. During the 60-day period from 24 May to 23 July, there were 1,217,218 messages sent over Silk Road’s private messaging system.
The Farmer’s Market was a Tor site similar to Silk Road, but which did not use bitcoins. It has been considered a ‘proto-Silk Road’ but the use of payment services such as PayPal and Western Union allowed law enforcement to trace payments and it was subsequently shut down by the FBI in 2012.
Other sites already existed when Silk Road was shut down and The Guardian predicted that these would take over the market that Silk Road previously dominated. Sites named ‘Atlantis‘, closing in September 2013, and Project Black Flag, closing in October 2013, each stole their users’ bitcoins.
In October 2013, the site named Black Market Reloaded closed down temporarily after the site’s source code was leaked. The market shares of various Silk Road successor sites were described by The Economist in May 2015.
Silk Road had a Tor-based book club that continued to operate following the initial site’s closure and even following the arrest of one of its members. Reading material included conspiracy theories and computer hacking. Some of the titles included mainstream books as well as books such as The Anarchist Cookbook and Defeating Electromagnetic Door Locks. Most of the titles on this book club were pirated. This book club still exists as a private Tor based chatroom.
Silk Road 2.0
Alert placed on the Silk Road’s homepage following its seizure by the U.S. government and European law enforcement
On 6 November 2013, administrators from the closed Silk Road relaunched the site, led by a new pseudonymous Dread Pirate Roberts, and dubbed it “Silk Road 2.0”. It recreated the original site’s setup and promised improved security.
The new DPR took the precaution of distributing encrypted copies of the site’s source code to allow the site to be quickly recreated in the event of another shutdown.
On 20 December 2013, it was announced that three alleged Silk Road 2.0 administrators had been arrested; two of these suspects, Andrew Michael Jones and Gary Davis, were named as the administrators “Inigo” and “Libertas” who had continued their work on Silk Road 2.0.
Around this time, the new Dread Pirate Roberts abruptly surrendered control of the site and froze its activity, including its escrow system. A new temporary administrator under the screenname “Defcon” took over and promised to bring the site back to working order.
On 13 February 2014, Defcon announced that Silk Road 2.0’s escrow accounts had been compromised through a vulnerability in Bitcoin protocol called “transaction malleability”.
While the site remained online, all the bitcoins in its escrow accounts, valued at $2.7 million, were reported stolen. It was later reported that the vulnerability was in the site’s “Refresh Deposits” function, and that the Silk Road administrators had used their commissions on sales since 15 February to refund users who lost money, with 50 percent of the hack victims being completely repaid as of 8 April.
Following the closure of Silk Road 2.0 in November 2014, Diabolus Market renamed itself to ‘Silk Road 3 Reloaded’ in order to capitalise on the brand. In January 2015, Silk Road Reloaded launched on I2P with multiple cryptocurrency support and similar listing restrictions to the original Silk Road market.
This website is also defunct.
Advocates of deep web drug sales
Meghan Ralston, a former “harm reduction manager” for the Drug Policy Alliance, was quoted as saying that the Silk Road was “a peaceable alternative to the often deadly violence so commonly associated with the global drug war, and street drug transactions, in particular”. Proponents of the Silk Road and similar sites argue that buying illegal narcotics from the safety of your home is better than buying them in person from criminals on the street.
Viktor Anatolyevich Bout (Russian: Виктор Анатольевич Бут; born 13 January 1967) is a Russian arms dealer.
He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 before being extradited in 2010 to the United States to stand trial on terrorism charges after having been accused of intending to smuggle arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for use against U.S. forces.
On 2 November 2011, he was convicted by a jury in a Manhattan federal court of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and officials, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles, and providing aid to a terrorist organization
A former Soviet military translator, Bout had reportedly made a significant amount of money through his multiple air transport companies which shipped cargo mostly in Africa and the Middle East during the 1990s and early 2000s.
Bout was equally willing to work with Charles Taylor in Liberia, the United Nations in Sudan, and the United States in Iraq, and he may have facilitated huge arms shipments during the 1990s into various civil wars in Africa with his private air cargo fleets.
Bout was not driven by ideology; it was all just (extremely lucrative) business. Indeed, when it suited him, and them, he also carried supplies for the British and American governments. He even put his planes at the disposal of UN peacekeepers
Bout says he has done little more than provide logistics, but former British Foreign Office minister Peter Hain called Bout a “sanctions buster” and described him as “the principal conduit for planes and supply routes that take arms from east Europe, principally Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine, to Liberia and Angola”
In cooperation with American authorities,Royal Thai Police arrested Bout in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 6, 2008. The United States ambassador requested his extradition under the Extradition Act between the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States, which was eventually mandated by the Thai High Court in August 2010.
Before his extradition to the United States in November 2010, Bout expressed confidence that this U.S. trial would eventually lead to his acquittal, but this did not occur. From January 2011 to June 2012, Bout was incarcerated in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, New York City.
Following his conviction, he was sentenced on 5 April 2012 to 25 years imprisonment by a U.S. judge. In June 2012, he was transferred to the United States Penitentiary, Marion, Illinois.
Viktor Bout – “The Merchant of Death”
Viktor Bout – interview from prison
UN documents and Bout himself both state his birthplace as Dushanbe, USSR, (now the capital of Tajikistan) possibly on 13 January 1967, but a few other birthplaces have been suggested: A 2001 South African intelligence file listed him as Ukrainian in origin.
Soviet military service
There is some confusion regarding Bout’s military career although it is clear he served in the Soviet Armed Forces. Having graduated from the Military Institute of Foreign Languages, he is said to be fluent in six languages. These include Persian and Esperanto, which he had mastered by age 12, and in the early 1980s he was member of the Esperanto club in Dushanbe.
Bout’s personal website states that he served in the Soviet Army as a translator, holding the rank of lieutenant. He is thought to have been discharged in 1991 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
But other sources state he rose to the rank of major in the GRU(an arm of the Soviet military that combines intelligence services and special forces), that he was an officer in the Soviet Air Forces, that he graduated from a Soviet military intelligence training program, or that he was a KGB operative.
Bout was involved with a Soviet military operation in Angola in the late 1980s.He has said he was in Angola for only a few weeks. Bout’s web site states that he began an air freight business in Africa around the time of the collapse of the USSR.
Bout’s nickname, “Sanctions Buster”, is due to his being implicated of facilitating the violation of UN arms embargoes in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo during the 1990s. Bout’s air freight companies provided service to the French government, the UN, and the U.S. Bout has reportedly shipped flowers, frozen chicken, UN peacekeepers, French soldiers, and African heads of state.
Bout allegedly worked alongside GRU-affiliated, and former Russian deputy prime minister, Igor Sechin, in Africa in the 1980s although both men deny this allegation. According to a 2002 United Nations report, Bout’s father-in-law Zuiguin :
“at one point held a high position in the KGB, perhaps even as high as a deputy chairman”.
Orders and warrants regarding Bout
Bout’s strategy of constantly moving location, owning numerous companies, and frequently re-registering aircraft made it hard for authorities to make a case against him. He has never been charged for the alleged African arms deals to which he owes his notoriety.
Belgian authorities requested that Interpol issue a notice for Bout on charges of money laundering, and in 2002 an Interpol red notice on Bout was issued. Bout’s website states that because he failed to appear in court a Belgian warrant (not the Interpol notice) for his arrest was issued but later cancelled.
The site has a document in Dutch to support the claim that the Belgian case against him was dismissed due to his lack of a fixed residence and because the case could not be prosecuted in a timely fashion.
On the date of his arrest in Bangkok, an Interpol red notice was requested by the United States against Bout. The alleged crime was conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Executive Order 13348
Bout’s U.S. assets were among those frozen in July 2004 under Executive Order 13348. The Order describes him as a “businessman, dealer and transporter of weapons and minerals” and cites his close association with Charles Taylor.
Charged in 2000 with forging documents in the Central African Republic, Bout was convicted in absentia, but the charges were later dropped.
Thai arrest and extradition
The DEA wanted him just as badly as MI6 and the CIA. The reason it succeeded where others had failed was that it had the foresight to engage the help of a maverick Englishman, a former SAS soldier who had also run an air-freight company in Africa
Bout was arrested in Thailand on an Interpol red notice, and on 16 November 2010 he was extradited amid protests by the Russian Government.
After months of delay, the Criminal Court in Bangkok began an extradition hearing for Bout on 22 September 2008. In February 2009, members of the United States Congress signed a letter to Attorney General Holder and Secretary of State Clinton expressing their wish that the Bout extradition:
“remain a top priority”.
On 11 August 2009, the Criminal Court ruled in his favor, denying the United States’ request for extradition and citing the political, not criminal, nature of the case. The United States appealed that ruling. On 20 August 2010, a higher court in Thailand ruled that Bout could, in fact, be extradited to the United States.
Viktor Bout in the custody of DEA agents on 16 November 2010 after being extradited to the United States
On 16 November 2010 Bout was extradited to the United States; the Russian government called the extradition illegal.
Russia’s protests and other actions
Russia called the Thai court decision in 2010 politically motivated. Its Foreign Ministry took steps to prevent Bout being extradited to the U.S.; Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested that Bout was innocent.
On 18 November 2010, shortly after Bout’s extradition to the United States, Russian PresidentMedvedev‘s aide Sergei Eduardovich Prikhodko said that Russia had :
“nothing to hide” in Bout’s criminal case stating, “it is in our interest that the investigation … be brought to completion, and [Bout] should answer all the questions the American justice system has.”
On 18 January 2013, Russian government officials announced that “judges, investigators, justice ministry officials and special services agents who were involved in Russian citizens Viktor Bout’s and Konstantin Yaroshenko’s legal prosecution and sentencing to long terms of imprisonment” would be added to a list of U.S. officials who will be denied Russian entry visas in response for the U.S. “Magnitsky Act“, under which certain Russian officials are ineligible to enter the U.S.
Prosecution and conviction in the United States
The day after his Bangkok arrest, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Bout with conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, conspiring to kill Americans, conspiring to kill American officers or employees, and conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile.
Additional charges against him were filed in February 2010. These included illegal purchase of aircraft, wire fraud, and money laundering.
Bout was convicted by a jury at a court in Manhattan on 2 November 2011.On 5 April 2012, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison (the minimum sentence) for conspiring to sell weapons to a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist group.
District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the minimum sentence was appropriate because:
“there was no evidence that Bout would have committed the crimes for which he was convicted had it not been for the sting operation”.
Bout’s wife Alla said shortly afterwards that the judge conducted the trial in a proper way. Viktor Bout pointed out that if the same standards were applied to everyone, all American gun shop owners—”who are sending arms and ending up killing Americans”—would be in prison.
In June 2013, a co-conspirator of Bout’s, Richard Ammar Chichakli, was extradited to New York on charges that he conspired to buy aircraft in violation of economic sanctions.
In September 2013, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld Bout’s conviction after rejecting Bout’s contention that he had been the victim of a vindictive prosecution and that there was no legitimate law enforcement reason to prosecute him.
As of 2014, former US Attorney General John Ashcroft is representing Bout in over turning his conviction via a new trial.
In the media
The 2005 film Lord of War is purportedly based on allegations about Bout’s personal history and black-market activities.
The Hunt for the Richest, Deadliest Criminal in History
A great book that reads like a Hollywood script and a range of characters straight out of a Ian Flemming novel. Enough twists and turns to keep me interested and guessing and compelling insights into the murky waters of international arms dealing.
I did form the opinion that Bout was entrapped and although I had no sympathy for him it did leave a bitter taste in my mouth.
Well worth a read though!
The Night Manager meets Narcos‘ Saul David
‘To catch this criminal took incredible courage and skill. This is James Bond meets Jason Bourne’ Bear Grylls
The new bestseller from the author of Zero Six Bravo
By 2007 Viktor Bout had become the world’s foremost arms dealer. Known as the ‘Merchant of Death’ he was both “Public Enemy No. 1” to the global intelligence agencies and a ruthless criminal worth around six billion dollars.
For years Bout had eluded capture, meanwhile building up a labyrinthine network of airlines selling weapons to order to dictators, rebels, despots and terror groups worldwide. He was hunted by the CIA, NSA, MI6, as well sought by the United Nations for being their top global sanctions buster. Holed up in Moscow – from where he ran a suite of offices selling anything from AK47s to state-of-the-art helicopter gunships and anti-aircraft missiles – he was shielded by a Russian state that was a partner in his dark dealings. In short, Bout appeared utterly invulnerable and beyond any hope of capture.
Step forward former SAS man Mike Snow. After serving in the Regiment, Snow had worked as a bush pilot in Africa, where he’d got to know Bout well. Via its own secretive, shadow network, Snow was approached by the US DEA, the Drugs Enforcement Agency. The DEA agents had one question for him: was Snow able to get to Viktor Bout?
This is the incredible tale of OPERATION RELENTLESS, the top-secret mission that Snow and a handful of DEA operatives launched to entrap Viktor Bout – a story that ranges from the steamy jungles of Colombia to the ice-bound streets of Moscow, and from horrific bloodshed and tyranny in the Congo, to a snatch operation like no other. It may read like an implausible thriller, but every word of Operation Man Hunt is true.
Buy the book
From the Inside Flap
They claimed they were the A-Team – the guys who could get one of the world’s most wanted men, notorious Russian arms-dealer Viktor Bout. More commonly known as ‘The Merchant of Death’, Bout was “Public Enemy No. 1” to the global intelligence agencies who hunted him, worth an alleged six billion dollars.
For decades Bout had run a labyrinthine network of airlines selling weapons to fabulously wealthy dictators, bloodthirsty rebels and fearsome terror outfits. Reputedly the United Nations top global sanctions buster, he was holed up in Moscow, shielded by a Russian state complicit in his dark dealings. But like modern-day bounty hunters the A-Team claimed they could nail Bout, and where an alphabet soup of agencies – MI6, CIA, NSA and others – had failed.
To capture Bout the US DEA – the Drugs Enforcement Agency – put together a cast more extraordinary than any fiction: The Bear, a stir-crazy bush-pilot and former SAS man; Carlos, former intelligence agent and undercover known as ‘The King of Sting’; ‘El Commandante’, a former narco-trafficker and arms-dealer extraordinaire; plus Dutch and Polski, ex-US military and crack DEA operators.
If they couldn’t get Bout, no one could.
Written with Lewis’s signature dramatic verve, and based upon exclusive interviews, DEA wire taps and court transcripts, this is the explosive story of the ultra-secret mission known as OPERATION RELENTLESS. It ranges from the steamy jungles of Colombia to the ice-bound streets of Moscow, and from horrific bloodshed and tyranny in Africa’s heart of darkness to a snatch mission like no other. It may read like an implausible thriller, but every word is true.
” To catch this criminal took incredible courage and skill.