Flamboyant loyalist crime lord buried with little fanfare

MURDERED ex-paramilitary boss Jim Gray was buried in total ignominy yesterday.

The flamboyant loyalist, 47, who once lorded over an empire of drugs, prostitution and sectarian killings, was denied the showpiece funeral usually granted to Northern Ireland’s terrorist godfathers.

A week after the former Ulster Defence Association commander was gunned down outside his father’s home in south east Belfast, no members of the outlawed organisation showed up to pay any final respects.

Instead, 14 men led by Gray’s father, Jim Snr, walked behind a single hearse from the scene of the shooting. Seven police Land Rovers also followed the tiny procession, but any fears of fresh violence proved unfounded.

Gray was assassinated by the UDA just months after being deposed as one of its inner council of six so-called brigadiers.

The organisation kicked him out because his lavish lifestyle had become an embarrassment even by its own criminal standards, amid attempts to clean up its image.

But with Gray facing money-laundering charges, his ex-associates feared he was about to inform on them as part of a deal to secure a reduced sentence.

He was murdered while out on bail living at his father’s home in the Clara Wood estate.

A gunman shot him up to five times in the back as he shifted weightlifting equipment from the boot of a car.

Men trusted by Gray are suspected to have been involved in the assassination plot, with police examining one theory that the UDA ordered Gray’s own men to carry out the killing. Four men and two women have been questioned about the murder but released without charge.

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