Mr Haggarty’s solicitor, Ciarán Shiels of Madden & Finucane, said tonight:

“An online article was published by a journalist Ciarán Barnes, Crime Correspondent for the Sunday Life and Belfast Telegraph newspapers, this evening reporting that our client Gary Haggarty had died of a heart attack.

“The article said this information was confirmed by Loyalist and Security sources as well as ‘two former RUC detectives who ran multiple paramilitary agents during the Troubles’.

“We can categorically confirm, having spoken with Mr Haggarty at length, that this information is entirely baseless and completely untrue.

“Journalists should understand the potential effect of the articles they write and publish.

“We were contacted by professional colleagues, who represent some of the surviving victims and the victims’ families in this case, seeking clarity on the situation. This was provided to them on our client’s instructions. We also note that it is likely that Mr Haggarty’s own children would have become aware of this evening’s story, the content of which has now went viral on social media, with further additional predictable commentary.

“Some elements of the media need to understand that entirely innocent people can be affected by misleading stories that are composed and then published. This is all the comment we wish to make in relation this matter.”