Sun, Jul 03, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Murder sparks worries of loyalist feud

THE GUARDIAN , BELFAST

A member of a police forensic team searches for clues around the cab of a truck after a man was shot dead in east Belfast on Friday.

PHOTO: EPA

A demolition worker was shot dead in his truck in front of children on a busy street in east Belfast, in Northern Ireland on Friday, sparking fears of a new feud between rival loyalist paramilitary gangs.

Yards of red, white and blue bunting lay in tatters on the staunchly protestant Newtownards Road where families had been preparing for an Orange parade to commemorate the anniversary of the battle of the Somme. It was the first day of the schools' summer holiday.

As local politicians cautioned against a return to the violent feuds that had once marred the area, children stood impassively eating sweets and watching officers pick over the crime scene outside a demolished pub that was once the headquarters of the paramilitary Ulster Defense Association (UDA).

The murdered man was not named by police but he was in his mid-20s and from north Belfast.

He had been sitting in the cab of a truck outside the demolished Avenue One pub where he had been clearing rubble. At 10:15am, a gunman ran out in front of the truck and fired a number of shots into the window, killing the man, before fleeing into a nearby street.

A second worker escaped from the truck uninjured, but the truck veered into a lamp post yards from terraced houses decorated for the marching season with union flags and pictures of Queen Elizabeth II.

The murdered man was known to police and last November he had been shot at while driving a van.

His name and accusations that he was a "tout" had appeared in graffiti on the Shankill Road -- the loyalist bush telegraph -- after he went to police over the attack.

Talk began yesterday of tensions between the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force and a splinter group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Wright said: "There has been a lot of speculation about a feud starting. That is something we would look at."

The Avenue One pub, which had recently been sold to developers and demolished, was previously owned by the notorious former east Belfast UDA commander, "Brigadier of Bling" Jim Gray.

Gray, also known as "Doris Day" for his year-round Florida tan, bleach-blond bouffant hair and pastel knitwear, is currently awaiting trial on charges of money laundering and concealing the proceeds of criminal activity.

In April he was ousted from the UDA amid concerns about his lifestyle of flashy cars and tropical holidays.

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