Police in the North have confirmed today that members of the on-ceasefire Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) were responsible for the murder of a man shot dead in front of stunned shoppers.
As an estimated 500 mourners gathered for the funeral of victim Bobby Moffett, the senior detective in the investigation appealed for help from the members of the public who saw the 43-year-old gunned down on the Shankill Road last Friday afternoon.
Detective Chief Inspector John McVea of the Serious Crime Branch confirmed that police intelligence tallied with the widely held belief that members of the loyalist paramilitary UVF murdered Mr Moffett in an attack linked to a personal dispute.
“It is the police view that Bobby Moffett was lured to his death on the Shankill last Friday as part of a dispute involving individuals linked to the UVF,” he said.
“From our knowledge of those individuals, from information we have received and from our intelligence picture, it is the police view that this murder was carried out by individuals linked to the UVF. It was a public execution linked to the Shankill UVF.”
Police are investigating whether UVF leaders sanctioned the killing.
Detective Chief Inspector McVea added: “This was a cold-blooded ruthless murder carried out in broad daylight on one of the busiest roads in our city.
“It was carried out in front of the ordinary decent people of the Shankill. It is to those people that I want to make a specific appeal.
“We are particularly keen to talk to people who saw activity in the Conway Street area immediately before the murder at 1pm last Friday or noticed men in high visibility workmen’s bibs.
“We are also trying to trace the movements of two cars – a silver/blue Skoda Octavia car we believe was in the Donegall Road area after the shooting and a blue or black Audi A4 in Conway Street that morning.
“These murderers wore masks, but not immediately before or after they killed Bobby Moffett. We need witnesses who saw these people to talk to us.”
It is estimated the UVF and its allies, the Red Hand Commando group, were responsible for the deaths of more than 500 people, mainly Catholic civilians, during the Troubles.
In 1994 the UVF declared a ceasefire, though sporadic violence continued at a relatively lower level, including a series of feuds with rival loyalist groups.
In May 2007 the UVF “stood down” its members, while the group decommissioned its weapons in June 2009.
But the latest attack, coming against the background of hopes that the group had put violence behind it, has sparked tension in loyalist ranks.
Yesterday the leader of the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) Dawn Purvis resigned after criticising elements who she said had no interest in following a purely political path.